Monday, May 26, 2008

Knitting Interruption!

All this talk about trips (and there is more besides Appalachia!) has me wanting to think about knitting. I did knit on the trip actually. You would not know it because I haven't mentioned it, and there are no photos as evidence, but I did knit a no purl Monkey sock on the plane. One and a half socks actually. That is where it stands still, at one and a half. (Am I the only one with an entire album of Disneyland pictures and yet you would never know I was there?)

I will get around to sharing the
knitting but since my pile of UFO's has grown ever larger it is actually a bit sad and discouraging it will have to wait a bit. Work up the nerve ya know? I have taken plenty of solace in just reading about how I am not alone. Most of us have a stack of things we start and then set down. There is something about the excitement of a new project, new yarn, new technique, new pattern, new, new, always has me chasing after it. Oh, and it isn't just us knitters I'm finding. Quilters do it too. Crafty and creative people of all sorts seem to have projects that linger. It helps me to know that.

Has anyone seen the
new Berroco Seduce? I so badly want to start a
project with that!!

In all my reading and random searching of blogs this little ge
m popped up. I know there are all sorts of journals you can buy, but this puppy is FREE! I don't know how well I will use these pages, but I did download and save a copy for myself just in case. Everything from graph paper to keeping track of works in progress, there is a sheet for everything. Kathryn Ivy's site has this Knitting Journal (Designed by Grace Schnebly) and I think it is just plain cool! Check it out and let me know what you think.... There are a number of do it yourself items on the sidebar as well.

Other than that, my nephew is here. What a sport he is! They live far enough away that he barely knows us, and yet he is here for two weeks. See, we went to Oregon to visit family and on our way out of town we stopped to say goodbye. My sister in law asked if I wanted to take a kid home. Kind of feeling put on the spot I said "yes", and then immediately started thinking if this was a good idea or not. Besides the 7 hour drive we were about to take on, he doesn't really know us! Yet, in about 15 minutes we were on our way home with an additional passenger....for a 2 week stay!

It has been a blast is all I can say. He did great in the car and every time the phone rings he yells "I'm not ready to go home yet!". I like to think that this means he likes us. My brother just thinks we are spoiling him. Who knows? I just know that I am not ready for him to go home yet either.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Appalachia 2008 Video

"We want to work!"

After a quick trip to Oregon, I am back and can continue the story....

As I said, we had a couple of days of feeling like we needed to do more. From the beginning I mentioned how much I love these kids. Hopefully you are beginning to understand why and maybe love them a bit yourself....I should highlight that these kids worked hard to get the money for the trip as well. They did car washes, yard work, dog walking, jobs, babysitting, and asking friends, family and business for donations. Each of them came up with 700.00 and I am darn proud of them! They raised the money to go and spend a week working and darn it, they wanted to WORK!

My group spent a couple of days doing things around the camp
but never interacting with many people. They felt like they hadn't met any families or been very challenged by the chores they had been given.

Arrival of days 3 and 4 were awesome! After whining to Head
Honcho Rob, we were able to switch it up a bit and my group was able to head out into Kentucky at long last.

We met up with our CAP worker, and headed off to the home of a sweet lady named "D". She is a single mom who is raising her two children, 4 abandoned kittens, and a classic Southern front porch puppy! I spent a bit of time talking with her and found that her family went back in this particular holler as long as anyone could remember or know. She was one of 15 children in her own family, and they all remain in the holler and are quite close. She said she hardly knows anyone outside of her own family, and besides, who needs friends when you have that many siblings!

D was in a small mobile home and it was in great need of updating. CAP is a local organization that is amazing!! Go check it out HERE
Basically they determine need and work it all out with the people they serve. They have on going projects and we just come in and help them where they are at on specific sites. Unlike Mexico, there isn't a clear completion of a project (like building a house) but we still made a lot of progress.

D's house had already been roofed and new decks built. Sh
e had a door that opened to nothing and a deck was made for it. We showed up and finished the deck, railings and spindles. We also finished much of the new siding and soffetts around the house. Oh, and did I mention how much I love my highschool friends? They used their lunch time to build a dog house for the puppy out of scrap material! We were also able to clean up all of the debris left over from the project, which was a huge pile in her front yard.

We instantly loved this little family and she was so kind to all of us. She was out with us all day, each day, appreciative and open to conversation about everything. We learned so much about her, and I know none of us will ever forget this amazing woman! I think we all made a loving impression on her as well.

The days were long and hot, and the work was rewarding. I think it is also safe to say that the kids I hang out with came away with what they wanted to experience...truly helping someone out and making an impact for the better. They learned that you make an impact in the world in big ways that are tangible and in small ways that may never be seen. While the work at D's house seemed like it was the most significant, I know for a fact that the work we did around the camp was profound. It was helping the people who serve there day in and day out. It was coming along side of people who also get little recognition and giving them some encouragement in what they do each and every day. We got to see both sides of serving, great humility and sweet reward.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

...and the next day

I am a mom. Any mom out there will relate to this part of my story. When you are a mom, and then work with kids on top of it all, you tend to see them all as yours. I feel so loyal to these highschool friends of mine that I not only want to protect them, but alternately want to see them get the best out of life...especially on an adventure like this. I wanted EPIC for each and every one of them.

Day 1, while good in it's own way, was a bit of a disappointment. I felt it, and the kids were feeling it too, which didn't help my mood any what so ever. I bit my tongue and hoped the next day would be an improvement. It was not.

Day 2 dawned and we were told that they have this beautification campaign going on in Kentucky and they are encouraging people to clean up the roadsides. Fair enough. Remember that we were in a very poor area, in fact the 3rd poores
t county in the United States. When you have to pay for trash service, and you can barely survive as it is, you tend to not pay and toss your trash out into the roadsides hither and yon.

The problem for me was not only the safety part of it, but the lack of organization. It felt like they didn't quite know what to do with us and so they gave us this task as "busy work". They also handed us a box of latex gloves (and fancy orange vests) as the only protection for picking up all manner of, broken televisions, bags of abandoned trash, and lots of broken glass.

It was a tough sell, I am not going to lie. The work stunk and the kids were doing their best but it wasn't easy for them to stay positive. I was really wrestling with how to approach Head Honcho Rob at the end of the day. I did not want to
seem like a whiny complainer, but yet I felt like my group was missing out. I knew Rob, while Head Honcho and all, was really not the one calling the shots with what each group was assigned to do for the day. In the back of my mind I kept thinking "Well, we came to serve and not complain"....yet it didn't really feel like we were serving.

We made the best of it and by "we" I really mean ME. I tried hard to chuck my own nasty feelings and look for the opportunities. There were many and in the end I was appreciative of the day.

Being able to walk along roads that few people ever do was wonderful. I was able to get into some really deep conversations with my small group that might not have happened otherwise.

One of our topics was how we can poison each other with our words. If I am not enjoying myself and think picking up trash is infuriating to say the least...then I tell everyone about how awful I feel, soon enough others begin to feel the same way. How we talk about each other, or the things we choose to share can really matter. In life we need to be so careful about how we talk to others because our opinions or bad attitudes can go much further than we realize. Words matter and have meaning...choose them carefully.

I watched the kids begin to encourage each other in the most precious ways. In the end we had somehow turned it into a silly competition about getting the most trash. Final tally: 14 tires, 3 televisions, a car bumper, one dog skull (yeah, ick!!), and 21 assorted bags of trash!

Another thing that came up was about our contribution those first two days. No one was ever going to know we were there. No one was necessarily going to appreciate what we were doing and we would not receive any kudos or reward for it. We did quite a bit of work around the camp as well (a summer camp for local kids) and none
of those summer kids would ever appreciate or see us. I did my best to explain that this is like real life in so many ways (can I get a "here! here!" from the moms out there...). Being the kind of person who will work and serve with humility is a great lesson for any of us, but these kids really learned it...pressed in deeply. They "got it" and it makes me want to blubber and cry just thinking about well they "got it".

I will wrap up with leading into day 3. I did finally work up the nerve (aka "momma bear" fight) to talk to Head Honcho Rob. I was on my way but and ran into my good friend and co-leader, Eddie. He was coming back from the same talk I was heading towards and so I didn't feel like I needed to keep going. It had been said.

The next morning we were all in a leader meeting and getting our marching orders for the day. Turns out we were supposed to spend the day at camp AGAIN and do some raking. I took a deep breath and layed it out there...fighting tears if I have to be honest. Sticking up for kids who had worked hard to raise 700.00 each to come on this trip. Kids who were here to meet people and do something that mattered, and that would last beyond them a bit and they weren't getting that experience.

Head Honcho Rob heard every word and even though he could not do anything about what was assigned to us, we did some juggling internally with our groups. Next thing I know I am telling kids to pack their lunches....we are outta here!!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

First Day's Work

We all woke up and had breakfast. Many of the kids packed lunches, but some of us lucky few had lunch provided where we were working that day! With a group our size, we break the kids into work teams and all head off to different work sites. In Mexico last year we had 3 teams and we were able to build 3 houses. This trip is we split into 5 work crews and all head out in different directions.

The crew I had with me didn't get too far. We went into a little town
called McKee. If you have never heard of it, don't worry. I hadn't either and I don't think too many people have. Although it is an adorable little town of less than a thousand people, it is certainly a kind of "blink and you'll miss it" place. I will say that the local gas station was quite happy when we pulled in and filled up 6 vans! They even said THANKS!!

Our job that day was to actually help out Sister Mary at the church she tends. It was obvious someone told her a group of teens were coming to help and to make a list. She pulled out her little notebook and walked us around the place, pointing here and there, and explaining what she would like to see get done. I was able to get the kids to say what they wanted to do, and we were nearly finished before lunch. Sister Mary fed us all hot dogs, beans, salad and an amazing home made corn relish.

I told her we had some more time and to think of anything else we could do while she had us at her disposal. She found a few more projects, and I would say that we did
above and beyond what she expected. I know for a fact that we saved this sweet older gal weeks of working on her knees, and probably a few aches and pains to go with it.

A special treat came at nearly the end of the day. A couple of the girls were doing some final work near the front shrubs. They noticed a bird fly out of a very tiny hole. Thinking this was odd, they carefully looked a bit closer.....such a nice treat to see. We carefully walked away and didn't tell anyone else our secret find.

At the end of it all, we felt like we had made a new friend. Mary had told us all about her life before coming to this area as well as what she does in reaching out to this small community. It did seem a bit like we were just helping one person, but in reality we were helping a lot of people. Giving Mary a needed break from hard physical work frees her up to love the people that come to see her each day.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Good Morning Day 1!!

Recap: Dinner and Rock Band with high school friends, go nigh-night, wake up at 2am and head to airport, spend all day flying all over the place, drive, break down, eat and have Club, drive and finally arrive at camp in Kentucky waaaaay past bedtime.


Wow, what a beautiful place! If I didn't already live in one of the most beautiful places created I would venture to say that Tennessee and Kentucky could run a tight race for that award. Let me just share a sampling of what I got to see!

I would be remiss if I did not mention the Red Bud Trees. They were everywhere! I think spring was an amazing time to go because the trees were all just beginning to bud so you could see the halo of green yet could still see through all the branches to the hills beyond. But the Red Bud, well, it was everywhere and I was ooohing and ahhhing at all of it. I so wish that it would grow in my yard!

Please, if you do nothing click on this last picture, it is soooo pretty!

Head Honcho Rob, Man of Many Mysteries

If you know anything about Young Life, you know we are a bunch of jokers and clowns and fools. There are things we will be dead serious about (like loving Jesus) but the rest of life we don't take too seriously for the most part. That is why we are able to shuck all wisdom and hang out with teens. Not simply hang out with teens, but we actually LOVE them....and we like to pack up a few, or 40, and we take them across the country, or to a foreign country and work them like whipped mules for a week. So in that spirit of silliness I show you our fearless leader:

I am certain he doesn't care for this picture but we all seem to have an embarrassing shot that gets used each and every time it's needed, I have to go with it, cause it's how I roll. I will add that besides cropping out his full name for the sake of the net and all, I have sadly cropped the most significant part of this photo....his roller skates! Yep, he is wearing skates with all that safety gear...and this photo is from more years ago than any of us know, note the mustache as proof...and we can thank his wife for sneaking this to us.

I should actually back up a bit and toot the horn of praise for our our fearless Head Honcho on this trip. His name is Rob and I will just go on record and say that I adore this guy. I have a lot of reasons, too many to list, and I feel so honored to know him and get to work with him...gush, gush, gush!

At the first leg of the trip, in the first airport pit stop he gave all the adults a small card and said "Guard this with you LIFE!!". I think he knew that if he gave it to any of us dorky adults
leaders (a term I will use loosely but hey, that is what they call us!) we might not have shown up with it on D-Day. Smart man. Not only was this precious card something we might need, with every conceivable phone number, emergency number, White House red phone number....but the sucker was laminated!! I know better than to be impressed by him, cause this is how he rolls, but I am continually impressed. And since no children were harmed in the cross country travel, they are all home safe and sound, I will now confess that I lost my precious card. I really think it was during the final drive back to my house. I kept it in my cell phone case and all the kids were passing my phone around to call parents to be picked up in 45 minutes. I know I had the precious card before I gave my phone out, I know I did!

Anywho--back to on the way there--we had a lay over between Vegas and Nashville that allowed for a food court hang out time. It was here that Head Honcho Rob felt it wise to give the adult
leaders the run down for when we landed in Nashville. He had giant zip-lock bags that had a big number inside of them. Behind that was a mapquest map for the trip from the airport to the church we were heading to for dinner. Behind that was a AAA map, the route highlighted in yellow, in case any of those famous mapquest mistakes happened to be on the first map. Oh, and we all were guarding with our lives the laminated card that had all of our numbers for each other (and the White House red phone) in case we got lost. My job? The only thing I could think of? The thing I said right there in the leader meeting...."Don't lose me! I will not get lost, I will follow, but for the love of Pete...please don't lose me in Kentucky!"

Nope, Head Honcho Rob did not actually give us these precious zip-lock bags. He merely showed them to us and explained their significance. We were told that they would be on the dashboards of our vans when we got to N
ashville. We would receive a van key, with a number on the tag, and that number was the first thing in that bag on the dash and this would be our car for the week. I think he has done this before, don't you?

Since the only food provided on this next flight was a few broken pretzels and a small plastic cup of soda, and Head Honcho Rob knew this goi
ng in...he got a donation from a local deli in town to give us sandwiches for the trip. This was the fun part! Somehow the lunch cooler was loaded into the plane galley and I was one of the lucky leaders who got to play flight attendant. They didn't let me do the "emergency directions" part, much as I would have loved to point to all the exits and explain how the seat doubles as a flotation device in the event of a water landing...over Texas?.....I digress...I got to pass out a real lunch! On the plane! Nothing makes you a hero more than to give hungry kids some yummy food! Except for the rest of the passengers looking sadly at their bag of broken pretzels and plastic cup of soda, I was in heaven.

Thanks Head Honcho Rob, for setting me up to look so good! One more reason I adore ya!

We landed in Nashville and grabbed our traveling buddies. Another detail assigned to us. Each
leader had four kids that they were responsible for getting from point A to point B. We also have our own version of security checks with leader Jeff, because he is the tallest and most visible, and he had his trusty clipboard. He would check us all past a point in the airports, then run ahead to our own personal security check point, and check us all past again. This is how we know we never left anybody. We each had our own kids to watch, but leader Jeff had his clipboard! (another detail provided by Head Honcho Rob)

So we are finally on the road. Head Honcho Rob, in all his wisdom, knew that kids stuffed into vans for a 5 hour drive and all their stuff stuffed into a van for a 5 hour drive AFTER being on planes all day...well, he knew it would be rough. He planned for only 6 people to be in each van, though there were seat belts for 7. He wanted us all to have a bit of breathing room, even if it meant the expense of an additional van. Do you see where this is heading? Do you see why I just love Head Honcho Rob?

The van. The piece of junk van. Need I say more? I explained that our group was separated by a traffic light and those of us who made it through pulled over to wait. I know I never wanted to be lost in Kentucky, nor did I want to lose we waited. The next light turned and we all started to move forward. I hear a "ding" and look at my dash lights. Hmmmm....I notice a check engine light come on. I also feel a funny vibration, and start asking "do you gals smell that?". I pull out my precious laminated card and skim past the White House red phone to get Head Honcho Rob's number and ask my navigator/teen to ring him up. He answers, I explain, and do you know what this man perfect planning says? He says "Well, we are almost to the church, can you hold on?" What part of engine light, weird vibration and odd smell sounds like I should keep driving? Did he hear me?

Well, it turns out he was right. We literally were at the turn to the looooong uphill driveway to the church and all I had to do was pull in and park. I did calmly tell the girls that there could be a car fire that I could not see, and to get out as soon as I stopped. I deduced this from the large amount of smoke pouring from my car. Head Honcho Rob never saw any of this and he immediately started pointing to where we should go to eat, and it made me wonder if he had even heard what I said....ya know, the car issue?

I will end the suspense and say simply that we were all able to find those extra seat belts that had been allowed for comfort, move all gear from the abandoned van into the remaining vans and carry on to our next adventure.

I also want to thank Rob. He is simply the best! He makes all of us look good and true to his word, he did not lose me in Kentucky!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Appalachia stole my heart...and Young Life Rocks!

Beginning on Sunday night, kids started arriving at my house before dinner. We had the bar-b-que scenting out through the neighborhood and parents giving their hugs to kids being dropped off for the adventure. Kids were whispering to me to get their "parents outta here" and parents were whispering "take care of my baby"...being in the middle, I hugged everyone and winked and nodded to both. That's how I roll!

The evening was spent laughing loudly, eating a lot, playing Rock Band, and genera
lly doing some early bonding. I also would glide around giving shout outs of the countdown until bed time, but no one seemed to take me seriously. I was never wrestled to the ground, or had dirty socks stuffed in my mouth, so I kept at my plan. I had no illusions, but the goal was to get SOME rest before our early rise to get to the airport an hour away. For highschool kids, I was quite happy to see that they had fun, but also seemed willingly be in bed by 10pm....thank you Lord! I am the one who needed rest!

We did wake up early (2am), got dressed, tidied up the house a bit, and loaded into the car. Off to the airport we went and there we met the rest of the group. About 35 kids plus 10 adult leaders made us a group worth noticing. Many people think I am nuts to hang with teens but I have to tell you they are better than most adults I know. I don't know what it says about me, you can judge for yourself, but hopefully you will see by the end of this why I love them all so freakin' much!! We flew from Reno to Las Vegas. My daughter was so excited when I told her she could exaggerate and say she had been there, though her feet never touched soil. She didn't care, she just knows she saw the same buildings that are in the opening credits for CSI....and that is not an admission that she is allowed to watch this show, but who hasn't seen the beginning credits?

Early at the Reno airport. See how dark it is? See how happy the young folk are?

See the sleeping "adult leader" there catchin' it where she can? That is resourceful!!

(never been to the Grand Canyon, but we got to fly over it, can I say I was there too?)

This is me. This is before the rest of the adventure, early, early in the trip now that I look back on it. See how happy I am? My hair is clean, I have a bit of makeup on, and I am feelin' fine! I had even earned my Southwest wings already...

These are two of the kids that I encouraged to get to bed. Before....

I explained that they would be tired and would need their rest for the next day and the next week. They laughed at me and continued their Rock Band concert tour....I should have known they would do this to me. Oh sure, they think they are young and can stay up all night, but poopers!

A quick layover and then off to Nashville. I have to say that I was so pleasantly surprised at how beautiful that city was. Green, hilly and so different from my neck of the woods. Once there we piled all these kids into vans and began our 5 plus hour drive up into Kentucky. For those of you who are wondering...yes it was a looong day, but not nearly as loooooong as the return day. We had time change on our side going East.

Our group was caravaning and we got a bit separated at a stop light. Those of us who made it through the light pulled over to wait and it was at this point I heard a ding, saw a light come on, felt a weird idling vibration. The light changed, we all began to move together again, and then I noticed smoke coming out of my Kentucky! I was SO far out of my "comfort zone" I can't even begin to tell you, and all the promises of taking care of "babies" were weighing on my mind, and then came the smoke. Pouring out of my car!! Did I mention I was in Kentucky? Fortunately, I looked up and we were at the driveway of the church that was hosting us for dinner/pit stop. As I am pulling into the parking lot I calmly told the kids that when I stopped they were to exit the vehicle from the two side exits. We had just been on a few plane rides, so they seemed to know the "emergency plan" intuitively and didn't ask about oxygen masks, or taking carry on, they just knew that when I stopped the needed to GET OUT!
Stay tuned....the adventure does continue!

Go take a breath, get some coffee and ya'll come back soon!

Am I the worst or what?!

I am, I know it...but I have "reasons". I just want to say to my friends and family (who know life creeps in) to please hang in there with me. I will get my head together soon.

Knitting, mission trips, vacation, kids, knitting, doctor visits, spring fever, oh and did I mention knitting? More to come....stay tuned!

P.S. Click on the gets bigger and is just breathtaking!