Beginner’s Luck

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I made some adjustments at half time.  I studied my opponents.  Every move was predictable.  Then I realized, so were mine.  Especially, being as green as I am.   I changed my strategy to behave like a veteran traveler, and I went back into the game.

Being intentional as a strategy was new to me.  I put my haphazard ways behind me and set out to leave no room for my enemy.  I got up, got dressed, and then coated myself with bug spray…slowly, one limb at a time.  I gave myself breaks between each limb, so the chemical cloud would dissipate.  That way I could both breathe and don my chemical shield.  It worked for the day.  Round 7 was mine.

In the evening, the weather was glorious.  I decided to sit on the porch and enjoy the breeze, however, I neglected to reapply my armor.  Round 8 went to them.

By the last two rounds, I had my strategy down.  I applied my spray the same each morning.  I also learned, that as soon as I arrived back in my room each afternoon to go ahead and ready the mosquito net…before the sun set, while the little blood suckers were asleep.  It worked like a charm, and they couldn’t figure how what hit them.  Rounds 9 and 10 went to me.

In the end, I starved the little guys.  The final score was 6 to 4, and barring any malaria breakout when I get home, I must say I was pretty proud to win so big in my first major championship. I will continue to take my malaria meds for the upcoming days because I know pride comes before a fall, and they would love it if I let my guard down and got sick once I am home. Ultimately, I know I learned some great lessons which will benefit me in future matches with them, but this time, I am happy to have won by beginner’s luck.

 

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Michelle vs. The Mosquitos

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Something a bit more lighthearted for you…and me.

In Africa, they have a lot of mosquitos. It is why I am taking Malaria medication while I am here in Uganda. The pesky critters are the same as ours in that they buzz in your ears, and hover around you looking for a meal.  They are different than ours in that they are smaller, and you cannot feel their bites so much…and of course, they can carry malaria.

My first night, they tricked me. It was probably their strategy for a newbie, and I think they can smell a rookie from miles away.  The weather in the shade with the breeze is glorious here. Especially knowing that at home, everyone is frozen over. I was sitting beside Lake Victoria in Entebbe as the sun set.  Just like at home, the little buggers came out to eat.  I noticed around the lights there were thousands of them, so I headed indoors.  My room was screened in and had an AC unit so I turned it on.  I couldn’t get the mosquito net around the bed so I went without.  No problem.  In the morning, I had no bites. Round 1 went to me.

So, the next night in Arua at my new location, I didn’t even attempt the net, and because there was no AC I slept in as little as possible, on top of the sheets. Can you say feast?  I woke with bites all over.  Fortunately, they do not itch like they do at home, and I brought anti itch cream with a suspicion that I would be on the mosquito menu. Round 2 went to them.

I was determined to not fall prey to the blood suckers again.  Before dressing, I sprayed myself with bug spray for the day.  I came home with more bites.  I wondered, do African mosquitos think my American bug spray is perfume? Does it attract them rather than repel them? It appears they crawled into my sleeve and chowed down.  Round 3 went to them.

Finally, I figured out how to use my net for sleeping.  Only did you know, that if one mosquito gets inside the net, it turns into a cage? I slept in a cage with a mosquito.  Round 4 went to them.

I saw some mosquitos in my room.  I got my flip flop ready.  I danced wildly swinging it over my head, until I got them both.  Round 5 went to me.

In my cage…I mean bed, I carefully checked for rouge mosquitos.  I saw one on the inside of the net, just hanging around waiting for me to go to sleep. I tip toed to my bag and got out my spray.  I used the element of surprise and sprayed him to death.  I also mostly sprayed me to death too.  I could not breathe.  I’m not sure who won the round.  I coughed all night…but no bites.  He died…so I am claiming victory for round 6.

It is half time and currently the score is tied.  The bites I have from earlier are fading.  My strategy to win this is to receive no more bites for the next three days. Here I go…back into the match….

 

Flying Solo

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It might surprise you to know that traveling for this trip made me nervous.  I have traveled on my own domestically, but never internationally. There is something unsettling about traveling to a place where they do not speak my language or use my money. The language part isn’t so much of an issue, until you leave the airport.  The money thing…well, it’s math.  Conversion rates, different forms of currency all worth different amounts, none of which I am familiar with are a great cause for my anxiety.  Math has always scared me.  When going to a foreign country, I am usually on a needs-to-know basis with veteran travelers.  I blindly follow them, like a sheep or a puppy.  All transfers and layovers, all currency exchange, all transportation needs, I just follow along fully trusting they know what they are doing. Because of this fact, I do not know what I am doing, and now that I am solo, I am having to learn.

Hannah booked all of the details over Christmas while she was home.  She had the utmost confidence in me, so much so, I starting having confidence in me, too. Even as I approached the international terminal with knots in my stomach, I kept telling myself ‘I can do this.’  Have you ever noticed how irrational fear is, well, irrational? I arrived many hours early because I would rather sit around the airport for hours than get caught in a mad rush to make my flight.  I had managed to check in online the night before with a bit of help from some friends, so I simply needed to check my bag once I arrived. Piece of cake. I watched the bag slide through the little door into the black abyss with satisfaction.  I was done in five minutes.  It has been a while since I checked a bag, and to be walking with only my purse felt freeing.  However, as I walked away, I noticed the bag ticket was for my final destination, not my layover.  In a calm manner, I went back to the desk and asked the woman if I would have my bag in Qatar for my overnight layover. The very nice lady said, no, I would not. Fortunately, I had packed my medicine in my purse just in case my bag got lost…I had no idea I would shoot myself in the foot before I ever took to the sky.  Still that little glitch wasn’t the end of the world.  I chalked it up to a rookie mistake.

I managed to get to the right gate, in the right line, and into the right seat.  I know, I know, I hadn’t even left Atlanta yet and everything was in English, but still, I felt accomplished. In my seat was a packet with a sleep mask, socks, earplugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and lip balm.  Hurray! I tucked it away for my layover. Once we were in the air, the meal came and it wasn’t too bad, until the flight attendant spilled someone’s tomato juice down the side of my head.  I was covered with juice, in my hair, down my neck, and all over my shirt.  The poor girl, was horrified and tried desperately to wipe me clean with cocktail napkins, creating some early flight entertainment for all of my middle eastern friends. Eventually, she got some wet wipes and allowed me to try to clean myself off. Sticky, but tomato free, I continued on.

There was an adorable elderly couple next to me.  They spoke no English, but we did our best to communicate.  I helped the woman get her seat leaned back, much to the dismay of the man behind her.  Several hours into the 12-hour flight while I was sleeping, she began to groan.  I woke to her pulling on my arm.  After a game of charades, I discerned she was asking for a gas pill, which I did not have.  The poor woman was miserable for most of the flight, crying out in pain and switching positions every couple of minutes.  At some point her husband got up and let her lie down in both their seats so she could sleep.  I tried to go back to sleep to no avail.  On the bright side, I got to watch 4 movies.

When we arrived, I took off my compression socks to feet swelled up like grapefruit. All my calisthenics while waiting in line for the bathroom, had failed to keep cankles from appearing.  I did however, keep the audience entertained with my walking in place, ankle twirls, and toe lifts.  So that is something.

My true test came when trying to get from the airport to my air b and b.  This short little transfer involved money, transportation, and a language barrier.  I managed to get through immigration and to the taxi stand.  Cash only.  I had planned to pay with a credit card, so I wouldn’t have to exchange money for such a short stay.  I didn’t want to turn on my cellular data to get an Uber, so I went to the ATM.  I had no idea how much to get, so I asked the cab lady and she told me what to do. I got a cabbie who was super nice, but didn’t know where he was going, so I had a nice tour of Doha before finally arriving at my hotel.  The room looked nothing like the pictures on the air b and b website, but there was a bed and a toilet and a shower, so I was happy. I went to take a shower to remove the last of the tomato juice from my matted hair, but there were no towels.  I went to plug in my phone, but my adapter was not with me. Rather than try to find a place to eat, I ate the snacks I had in my purse…thank God, I put them in there!  I decided just to go to bed, in my clothes, tomato hair and all.

I went to bed at 6:00 pm local time, exhausted from my lack of sleep.  I was in deep REM when the mosque next door had the call to prayer, loudly over the speakers. I had heard one while on my driving tour, but somehow being woken from sleep made it seem louder.  Honestly, I thought it was kind of beautiful, but to hear it so often I think I would not like it for long. I did wonder, if I had a reminder to pray several times a day if it would help me remember.  I wished I had used those earplugs, for now I was once again wide awake at 8:00 pm.  Listening to cats fight in the streets…I think it was cats, anyway.  I drifted out until my room phone rang brining me back awake again.  It was the front desk calling to tell me they had a driver available to take me back to the airport at 4:00 am.  I had a few more hours of sleep before waking and being unable to go back to sleep.  That’s why I am writing this blog, trying to empty my mind so I can get drowsy again.  All of this adventure…on my first day.  Seriously, I thought this might be the most lighthearted of my blog posts on this trip.  A few more hours before I take my wrinkled, matted self, back to the airport.  Who knows what my next two flights will bring!  Stay tuned…

Blackberry Winter

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I stepped out into the cool morning.  “Brrrrr.  It’s chilly this morning.” I said under my breath.

“Blackberry Winter,” came a friend’s reply as she crossed the parking lot.

Two words which, anywhere else but rural Georgia, would need an explanation.  Here, no other words needed to be spoken.  A simple nod of acknowledgement and I was on my way.  As if to confirm the statement, the blackberry bushes along the roads on my way home held their faces up in full bloom. The 50-degree temperature settled in my bones.  Sure ‘nuff it was Blackberry Winter.

In case, you’re not from around here, Blackberry Winter is when spring days, which feel colder than a milkshake, come around just when you think it’s fixin’ to be summer.  For some reason, they sneak up on you like a cat ‘bout to pounce.  You’ve put your sweaters in the cedar chest thinkin’ you’re done with ‘em, when out of nowhere, bam! Winter again.  This happens each year right around the time the blackberries are in bloom.  Hence the term, Blackberry Winter.  Some ol’ timers may tell you that it helps ‘em grow like a weed, however, since they are already weeds it’s hard to tell if the cold snap is the culprit or if they would grow that fast anyway.  All I know is they tend to take over a place if you aren’t tendin’ to ‘em.  Before you know it those bushes will be bendin’ low under the weight of the berries.

When I was a young girl, I ‘member going berry picking in the pasture.  I pulled on my cowboy boots to protect my ankles from real live snakes in the grass.  I braided my hair into two pig tails to keep it from gettin’ tangled in the briars.  Slipping into a long sleeve shirt, I rolled the sleeves all the way down, even though it was hotter than Hades in the summertime.  I grabbed my bucket and off I went.  Startin’ on the outside of the patch and working my way in towards the middle, I grabbed only the sweetest berries.  They had to be plump, and all the way black, any red on them and they would make you pucker up to kiss your grandma.  The best way to find the ripe ones was to put on your tongue and press it to the roof of your mouth.  If the explosion of sweet juice was like fireworks inside your mouth, it was ready.  If the juice dripped down your chin you knew it would be totally worth the purple fingers and briar scratches that looked like you’d fought with a bobcat.  The gnats you consumed while picking, were an appetizer to the main event, which was blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.

As I’m driving down the road in the drizzly cold, a smile like a Cheshire cat creeps onto my face at the thought that all this rain and cold are just getting the berries ready for summer. They say not to count your chickens before they hatch, but no one ever said not to count the blackberries before they ripen!

Atlanta Rises~The Thrill of Victory

michelle-in-front-of-yonahI was born and raised in Atlanta.  It was my home, and as such, it became part of me…even the curse of the Atlanta professional sports teams.  If you think the Atlanta Flames are part of Sherman’s March to the Sea, then you don’t know what I am talking about.  If you don’t know who Chief Noc-a-homa is and why his teepee is linked to losing baseball games, then you are not a diehard fan.  Those of us who have been around know what it means to go to a game to see individual players because the team as a whole stinks. Names like Phil Niekro, Steve Bartkowski, Spud Webb, Hank Aaron, Dominique Wilkins, and Dale Murphy live on in our memories as some of the athletes who loved Atlanta enough to hang in despite our inability to win. Their individual achievements kept the believers among us coming back for more.  However, the illusive championships squeezed the heart out of even the most dedicated fans, who arrived as bag-heads, too embarrassed to show their faces.   Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was said to be cursed, and so we built a new one.  We all went on some hope-filled wild rides together only to be disappointed again and again.  And we all know, hope deferred makes the heart sick.

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Then the Braves’ worst to first season happened. The unexpectedness of that season sent us all into a tizzy of excitement. We began to believe again.  The come-back kids, who beat the odds, were a perfect representation of all the years of inconsistency, unpredictability, and instability finding expectation again. Sid Bream’s unlikely slide into home plate, buried him in our hopes. We fell in love with that team.  We knew them all.  We followed every game.  We watched that World Series until the wee hours of the morning and arrived bleary-eyed to work the next morning to gather around and discuss every nuance of the game from the night before.  It felt like glory had finally arrived, but the key to that season wasn’t talent or strength, it was heart. The sheer determination and the belief of those guys that they were going to do it resulted in it actually happening.

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I realize that the Falcons have not yet made it to the Super bowl, and so this blog may seem a bit premature to some.  But to the true, long-time fans…we recognize heart when we see it.  We see the determination in combination with the talent and the hunger for redemption, and we know what the results of those factors are.  We are waiting on the edge of our seats.  During the game last night, we saw a spark of hope ignite into full flame. Our hearts beat faster and we had trouble sleeping for the anticipation rising up. Could it be?  Dare we hope again?  The giddiness arrived and reminded us of the thrill of victory, after so many years of the agony of defeat.

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Do not mistake this team for a point scoring machine. Do not think that the precision with which they produce is why they have risen to the top.  Certainly having the talent they do is critical to their success this season, however, we longtime fans are witnesses to talented teams who could not accomplish their dreams.  We have watched clubs crash and burn, who talent-wise should have won it all.  No… talent is only one piece of the puzzle.  The real key is heart and this team has it in abundance. It is the factor that no commentator can predict.  It is the factor that cannot be measured in yards, or plays, or points.  It is the connection that bonds players into brothers.  It is the relationship that turns fans into followers. It is grit, determination, and hope all rolled into one.  Heart is what makes believers out of us all. There are more games to play before it will be known how this will go, but for Atlanta fans the thrill of victory has infused us with heart once again.  Here’s to hope…can you feel it?

Working With the Littles

michelle-yonah-33-of-33I started working with kids when I was in high school.  In fact, one of my first jobs was working with preschoolers at Kindercare.  Later on, armed with my degree and my extensive experience as a 20-year-old, I took on a first grade classroom.  That was before I moved on to the intermediate level (grades 3, 4, and 5) for the next 18 years.  My heart has always loved the wonder of young children.  Not to mention, they are so stinking cute!

This year, when my friend Libby went back into the classroom after a couple year absence, I volunteered to come in one day a week to help out and dragged my business partner Mary along with me.  The first day with those kindergarteners was the most fun I have had in a long time. I had forgotten how adorable the Littles are.  Now, it is a bright spot in my week.

cupcakes.jpgYesterday, they had picture day, Hispanic Heritage Day, and curriculum night.  Yes.  All three on the same day. (I bow to all the teachers.)  Mary had another engagement, so I went on my own to help in whatever way I could.  Being in south Hall, the school has a high population of Hispanic students therefore, Hispanic Heritage Day is very well attended.  The students were gone for pictures when I got to the classroom, but the families and food were arriving steadily…flan, rice pudding, cake, and mountains of jello.  I never knew jello (they call it jelly) was a Hispanic food, but it came in all kinds of festive shapes and colors. Rainbow layers.  Cubes.  Stars. It was a whole level of jello preparation that I had not seen before.  It was impressive.  Not even kidding.

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The tables were already set up so I jumped right in with putting the homemade treats out.  When Libby got to the room she said I could help serve plates.  No problem.  I have done at least 1 million class parties in my lifetime, this would be a piece-of-cake…literally.  That was before I found out there was a rotation schedule, and there were actually 6 classrooms of kids that would be coming through, with their parents and siblings as well.  Quickly, I amended my original class-party-expert assessment of the situation from piece-of-cake to Code Red.

Each group had what felt like 5 minutes to come in, sit down, be served, eat, clean up, and get out the door. Any teacher of Littles can tell you that allowing them to serve themselves is your worst nightmare, especially when there are two tables of food, so I dawned some rubber gloves and got to work making plates as fast as possible.  The first group was there before you could count to 3.  Libby was madly handing out the drinks as I threw food on plates.  Once they were all served I began to make plates for the next group, at the same time the parents and siblings were coming through the line. I tried not to reach over, or cut anyone off but I was in my serious get-it-done mode.  The noise level was rising and Libby, being the fabulous teacher she is, put on some quiet Hispanic guitar music (Am I allowed to use quiet and Hispanic music in the same sentence?) and asked the kids if they could hear the music.  They stopped talking to listen.  She is brilliant.  One boy even said, “That is fancy music.” I think maybe classical guitar isn’t something he hears every day.

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By the time the next group came, there were pre-made plates for everyone. I could spend the rest of the allotted time making more for the next group.  It actually felt as if we were getting ahead.  As serving plates emptied, I refilled them with extra dishes that didn’t make the already full table before.  The kids didn’t complain about the fact that everyone had different items on their plates. I knew that as long as there were cupcakes things would be smooth.  Cupcakes solve all the problems.  Licking mounds of icing translates to every culture.

flanThe food held out, which was questionable in the beginning. Though what remained was mostly jello, every student, parent, and sibling got to eat.  The cupcakes disappeared after the fourth group, but the fifth and sixth were unaware, so there was no uprising.  When the last group was complete and I was feeling quite accomplished, I finally looked up from my task.  It looked as if a bomb had gone off in the room.  There was jello of every color on almost every surface.  There was chocolate cake ground into the floor.  Icing everywhere.  Then I remembered.  The Littles…they are messy. By this time, Libby was as frazzled as I was, but with her kindergarten teacher smile you would never know it.  However, all teachers speak frazzled-teacher body language, so I sent her outside to recess so they could run off their sugar…before lunch.

jelloDid I say jello was everywhere?  Did you know that if you try to sweep jello it actually rolls across the floor leaving a sticky slug-like trail behind it?  Did you know that when it rolls it picks up all the sand and dirt on the floor?  Did you know that chocolate cake smooshed and smeared into the floor doesn’t look like chocolate cake?  Did you know that cupcake icing sticks to tables like dried playdough?  Or maybe that WAS dried play dough…I’m not sure. Needless to say the clean-up of little tables and chairs took as much energy as serving food to the Littles.  When I finally arrived at my car, I basked in the quiet for a moment and as I looked in the rearview mirror I noticed orange and purple icing all over my face.  I wondered how long it had been there and why no one had told me it as there, but then I thought probably no one even noticed in the frantic pace of the morning.  I didn’t even care because I was sitting down for the first time in hours.  `

Today, I have taken Advil to ease the pain.  I am babying my body because it isn’t as young as it used to be.  Bending over tables for hours at a time isn’t something I do anymore.  I have an ice pack on my back and my feet are elevated so the swelling in my knee will go down.  As I refill my ice pack, I pray for all the teachers of the Littles.  That God would bless them greatly for their hard work.  That he would strengthen them so they could work those 3-special-events-in-one-day days.  That he would surround them with people who will support them in all that they do…because they do so very much.  That they will know how amazing they are.  That they will feel hope and encouragement. That they would get the respect they deserve.  That they will know how important they are.  And that they will get some much needed rest and that their bodies would be strong, because one day for a couple of hours about did me in!

Summer Flashback

IMG_9705My lazy day at the pool was interrupted by laughter.  I opened my eyes to see a brother and sister with a friend or two playing in the water.  They were somewhere between 6 and 10, and so full of energy that only a day of pool play would quench it.  And play they did.  Categories was the first game, and while I reached back into my memory banks for the rules of the game, they engaged in the ‘favorite ice cream’ round.  There was some rather loud discussion as to whether Brother was turning prematurely to cheat.  Ultimately, he promised to remain with his back to the pool and the game continued for two more rounds before attention waned and the next game began.

pool picThe cannon balls, pencils, and can openers commenced with a full panel of judges calling out scores for each plunge into the depths.  The esteemed evaluators were dripping wet as they watched and waited for their own turn.  They appeared to be judging on creativity as well as execution and once again, there was loud discussion of each attempt and subsequent addition of total scores to determine the winner.  The game was abandoned when one particular “run-freeze-like-a-statue-then-fall-in-the-water jump was ruled against procedure by the judges but deemed the “best” one by the contestant.

I leaned my head back against my chair, closed my eyes, and traveled back in time just as the first call of “Marco!” rang out.  The corners of my mouth creeped up my cheeks in a smile of remembrance and a bit of mischief. The hours and hours of pool time flooded my mind and I allowed the pictures of my own children to surface from the deep places of my heart.  Little brown bodies and hair of varying shades from white blonde to chestnut brown.   Multi-colored googles, board shorts and bathing suits, an entire rainbow of pool noodles, towels hanging over fences, snorkel gear, and diving coins, sticks, and nerf balls.  My imagination carried me into a poolside sleep and I woke to smooth quiet water, wondering if I had dreamed the whole earlier scene.

pool pic 2Another day, a different pool, same games, different kids…6 of them this time.   Two moms, 3 kids each, poolside, watching every move. I so remember these days.  The kid age range from 4 to 10 or so.  Younger boys beyond excited that they graduated from jumping in at the 4-foot mark to the 5-foot mark.  The youngest one gleefully says, “That is so fun!”  I giggle since the new launch pad is merely inches from the previous one.  His skinny little body shivers in equal amounts of excitement and fear to be in the ‘deep end.’  The first tentative jump gives birth to more and more confidence, until he can jump, turn, and swim back to the ‘shallow end’ without holding onto the side. His brother and friend are right behind him in the jumping game, and while they are not old enough to start scoring one another yet, I know that it will not be long until they make it into a competition. It’s a boy thing.

The girls have left little brothers behind and are making silly hair styles with their wet manes.  Being older, they have the full pool at their fingertips but choose to stay in the deeper waters where younger siblings cannot follow.  Silly faces are made under water which bring giggles above.

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At the other end, a dad hoists his boys into the air high enough they land in cannonballs all around.  This creates gleeful screams and choppy waters.  I hear the familiar refrain, “Again.  Do it again, Daddy!”  I want to tell the dad that his back will be sore tomorrow, but I figure he already knows this. I’m not sure he knows how significant this summer custom of pool-going is.  That there will come a day when the lessons learned in the water will translate into real life. That relationships formed here build trust, teamwork, and toughness.  That a day this exhausting has meaning and provides something more than fun.  He may not know all that now…but there will come a day where he will see it all clearly, from the side of the pool.

I take it all in and once again I flashback to the time when my kiddos were little.  Something about the smell of sunscreen, the sight of freckled noses, and sounds of laughter make my heart somewhere between melancholy and amused.  Melancholy because I miss those days of little poolside footprints.  Amused because I now get to observe without the exhaustion of keeping up.  Still, if there is anything I have learned, it is to cherish the season in which you find yourself, because you will blink and it will be gone.  For all the young moms and dads out there…hats off to you.  I know it is beyond tiring, but this summertime ritual is a wonderful thing.  One day, when they are grown, you will take a well-earned poolside nap, smile, and be tempted to yell, “Polo!” while pretending to be asleep…just for fun. 😉

A Nature Adventure

IMG_9705The day was fading fast.  A slight breeze had the trees a bit restless.  The heat of the afternoon morphed into cool kisses on my cheeks. An invitation to me. Perfect for an evening stroll by the river, and so Bill and I headed out to capture the last of the light.  As we were driving the sky was sliding from blue to pinkish-bluish-gray as only a sunset sky can do. White puffy clouds reflected the colors in 3D.  The walk would have to be a short one.  We went to Smith Gall Woods, making sure to stay within sight of the gate, which closes at sunset. We had no desire to get locked in.  If you haven’t been there in a while, they have updated the trail by the river, added some new picnic tables, updated the bridges, etc…  You should really go sometime and check it out.  It is one of our favorite “talking” places.  We go there for strolling, holding hands, and skipping rocks.  Just to be.  Together.

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As we walked, we decided we really must do a picnic one night soon, amongst the ferns and beside the bubbling creek.  It is a soothing and peaceful place, and on this Memorial Day weekend, those types of places are hard to find in our area as the tourists descend for the first weekend of summer.  We followed the creek to where it feeds into the rushing river and continued down the path.  Bill stepped aside to sit on a picnic table for a moment while I took a phone call.

Once off the phone, I went to join him and arrived just as he yelled, “Ouch!  Something stung me!”

At that same moment I noticed Flying Things all around him…and now me.  I said, “Run! Yellow Jackets!” I raced off just as I was stung.  With the second sting I knew there was a bee inside my shirt, so I ripped it over my head and kept running towards the river.  Bill was just behind me, and I was waving my shirt around my head trying to disperse the swarm. We were both frantically waving our arms around, like crazy people.  One more sting had me screaming and nearly ready to go head first into the river.  I feel sure the woman in the parking lot must’ve been laughing pretty hard to see my dance from a distance.  I am also pretty sure if she had videoed it, it will be one of those that goes viral. (Let me tell you, I will be keeping an eye out on FB the next few days.)

The Flying Things finally, after what seemed like a slow motion eternity, passed us by.  We were laughing in the midst of our throbbing pain, the bites quickly swelling.  Bill, not knowing what to say to me standing there in my bra and shorts, just shook his head and chuckled.

“What?  It was in my shirt…what was I supposed to do?” I smiled in reply to his mischievous grin.

Before putting my shirt back on I shook it out to make sure all signs of the Flying Things were gone. I turned it inside-out just to make sure. Once I was confident it was clear, I pulled it back on.  I quickly realized I must have missed a wrinkle because I was immediately struck with a sharp pain in my arm.  Just as I was about to disrobe again, I saw one Flying Thing wiggle past the sleeve and take flight. A total of five stings for me, and only the original one for Bill. He says they followed me because I am sweeter.  lol

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We quickly made our way down to the river to see if the cold water would alleviate the pain. While we waited for the throbbing to cease, we skipped a few rocks into the rush of the river.  Even in our stung-swelling and now whiny state, it was a peaceful place. We talked about the odd occurrence of yellow jackets swarming like that.  It just didn’t make sense for what we know of them.  Usually they leave you alone unless you disturb their nest, but they build their nests underground in banks…not flat places that are open, like under picnic tables.

hornet-md

Our curiosity got the better of us, so as we left, we went back by the picnic table to take a look…from the safety of our car.  There, right under where Bill had been sitting, was a hornets’ nest!  That explained everything…no yellow jackets…it was hornets that went on a rampage. It is completely typical for hornets to swarm and follow in a rage.  Honestly, we were lucky to get as few stings as we did. Thank goodness it wasn’t the Japanese Hornets that are so huge. There is a reason for the phrase…Don’t stir up a hornets’ nest. Literally or figuratively, it’s nothing I care to ever do again.  As the sun set, and the light faded from dusk to dark we eventually made our way home…to the Benedryl and deep sleep. This morning the sun is up and the swelling is down. The story is told…another nature adventure in the books.  Haha.

hornets nest

Testing Tips

IMG_9705Tips for testing…

  • Get out of bed
  • Yes. You have to.
  • Coffee
  • More coffee
  • Deep breaths
  • SERIOUS prayer time
  • Wear your lucky shirt and socks and underwear
  • Hold your head up high
  • Look confident
  • Hope that you pull it off
  • Don’t let them see you sweat
  • Prepare for the test
  • Give blood, and your first born child to receive your testing materials
  • Quiz your students while they are in line for the bathroom
  • Don’t forget to take your testing materials to the bathroom with you
  • They do not like being left alone
  • Remember if you leave them alone you will lose your job
  • Settle kids down
  • Resist the urge to pull out last minute flashcards
  • Begin bribery
  • Promise them candy
  • Promise them extra recess
  • Promise them fun
  • Beg
  • Plead
  • Wring your hands
  • Give inspiring speech
  • Set the timer
  • More SERIOUS prayer time (silently of course)
  • More deep breaths
  • Sit still and do absolutely nothing
  • For 2 hours
  • Really
  • No computer, no papers to grade, no books to read
  • Count the little black holes in the ceiling tiles
  • Twirl your hair  (while you still have some)
  • Plan your family reunion (in your head)
  • Plan a vacation to an exotic tropical location (in your head)
  • Make a grocery list (in your head)
  • Have some SERIOUS prayer time (in your head)
  • Try to keep your coffee-filled body still
  • No fidgeting
  • No wiggling
  • No tapping…feet or pencils
  • Circulate the room to monitor (and to work off coffee jitters)
  • But under no circumstances EVER look at the test
  • Never. Ever.  Look.
  • Your eyes will burn out of your head
  • Your job will be in jeopardy
  • You will be cursed forever
  • It’s not worth it
  • Do not cry when the first kid finishes in 5 minutes
  • Do not break down when the next 6 finish in 10
  • Do not worry
  • All will be well…with your soul
  • Do not beat your head on the desk when some of them raise their hands and ask you what multiplication is
  • And under no circumstances answer them
  • Do not allow the snoring of the first 7 kids that finish to disturb those who actually are trying
  • Give a trashcan to any kid who thinks they are going to throw up
  • Watch your timer closely
  • Stop students when it goes off
  • Try not to cheer out loud that day 1 is over
  • More deep breathing
  • SERIOUS prayer over testing materials before turning them in
  • Practice for following day…all afternoon…ad nauseam
  • Repeat all these steps
  • Plus don’t forget to wash all your lucky clothing for the next day
  • For five days
  • Celebrate big when it is all over
  • Remember you love children
  • Remember you love teaching
  • Say these things over and over again
  • “I love children. I love children. I love children.”
  • “I love teaching. I love teaching. I love teaching.”
  • Hold your breath for 10 days until scores come back
  • Ten days of SERIOUS prayer
  • Remember that no matter what happens…
  • You make a difference
  • Far more than knowledge
  • You impart confidence
  • You impart wisdom
  • You impart determination
  • You impart belief
  • You impart hope
  • You impart courage to try
  • You impart creativity
  • You impart perseverance
  • You impart the ability to THINK
  • Never forget that
  • A test cannot measure that

 

 

 

 

 

The Flood

IMG_9705

Splat! My foot hit the carpet at the bottom of the stairs and was in a puddle. Not the way I wanted to start my day. I was flummoxed. Where does a puddle come from in the MIDDLE of a basement floor? Was it the dogs? The kids? Clean up commenced, and I went about my day. The next day, splat, the puddle was back. Now suspicious, I asked the household what was up, but no one seemed to know.

Bill checked the utility room and found nothing…the first time. The second time he checked a day later, it was filled with water. (Still not sure how he missed it the first time) Having just had three cars repaired in a week, we prayed fervently that it was NOT the hot water heater, but rather something inexpensive that was causing this water to flow from the utility room to the middle of the basement floor. I know… it was a far-fetched prayer, but due to our amazing faith (tongue in cheek, here) God answered! A small leak in the pipe caused the whole mess, but was an easy $100 fix. Whew! We dodged a major bullet. We quickly thanked God for his answer, vacuumed up the water, and left town for the weekend.

pipes

Upon our return on Saturday evening, I was walking through the dining room when, splat! My foot found another middle-of-the-room puddle. I felt my heart sink. I knew it was too good to be true to get out with such a small price. So much for my great faith! Again, the search from dogs to kids. Again, no response on the culprit. This spot was under a place in the ceiling we had had a leak before. So I sent one of my boys to the attic.

“No water, mom! All is dry.” My mind was incredulous. This could not be.

“There has to be water, where else could this be coming from?”

It dawned on me then that maybe it was underneath. A pipe under the floor perhaps? Odd placement, but I guess a pipe could have burst….and water flowed up? Sprayed up, against gravity, maybe?

“That would explain the spot on the ceiling downstairs,” says the son.

“There’s a spot on the ceiling downstairs?” I ask.

“Yep. Right under this.”

“Seriously?”

I called the plumber. We filled the tubs and sinks and turned off the water main…just in time for our houseguest to arrive. Fortunately, she is a world race alumnus and bucket baths are familiar to her, as is flexibility. I was grateful we still had a bed to offer her. Just so happens our plumber is also a preacher and so we had to wait until Monday for him to arrive to rescue us. Two days without water taught me an important lesson…I could never do the World Race, I love showers too much.

pipe spewing

Somehow, even with the water off, the puddle grew. The spot on the ceiling downstairs spread. Water fell into the utility room…again. Once again, fervent prayers went up for an easy fix. Once again, the $100 answer came. A leak in the refrigerator line…fixed in a few minutes. Once again, fans and vacuums. And all seemed well. Then the small gnawing voice in my head that whispered, “You should get that checked to make sure. To prevent mold. To make sure there is no rot.” The voice won and I called the water mitigation company. It’s a good thing I did. The entire subfloor under the flooring was saturated. It spread out throughout the kitchen and into the dining room. The insulation in the ceiling downstairs was saturated as well. So much for an inexpensive fix! Insurance will cover all but $1,000 of it, so at least it will be correctly done before it is all over.

kitchen

The water company brought in their fans, dehumidifiers, and air filters just in time for our houseguest, who had left for a week, to return. God bless her…she is a trooper. They pulled up the floor, tore down the ceiling, and peeled back the carpet. Then they sealed off the dining room and kitchen from the rest of the house with plastic that runs from ceiling to floor. It looks like a hazmat area and sounds like a wind tunnel. The basement has the same appearance.

Did I mention that I am doing the Whole 30 diet? Yes, that’s right. The one where you have to make everything you eat, from scratch. All your own condiments, dressings, butter…from scratch. I am on day 10, still in detox stage and these events in my house are NOT HELPING ME!! However, I cannot turn back now, so I bought a cook stove that should get me through until my kitchen is restored. My plans have been interrupted.  Funny how it always  happens that way.  Sometimes unexpected interruptions turn out to be important to your health.

So I have been thinking, as you knew I would. We have been through fire, wind, and now water. I am praying we never have to go through an earthquake. (You can rest easy, if there is one it will be limited to just our house I am pretty sure.) The lesson this time? Things can look pretty good on the outside. It can appear that all is well, but when you peel back the layers and look behind and under there is more than meets the eye. Things that will rot, mold and mildew. Things that you didn’t know where there. Things that can destroy if they are not addressed. You might suspect there was always something not quite right. That there might be an issue that has been there a long, long time. A slow small leak. Something that you are afraid to uncover because of what it will cost you, but it is best to go with the process. It exposes the things that thrive in the dark to the light and breath of God’s love. It is messy to be sure.  It interrupts your plans, takes some time, some rethinking things, and some rearranging, but in the end ALL THINGS ARE NEW. The relief and lightness of restoration, the rest and peace when it is all completed is worth the all the mess and trouble. I can tell you that truthfully. I have done it three times now in the natural on our house… and hundreds of times spiritually. What is coming is so much better than what is hidden behind you, but it takes removal of the damage first. It’s time to call in the professionals.