Saturday, August 18, 2012

At The Close of a Sweet Summer

It has been a wonderfully busy summer with a bit of sunshine between the rains. But you know me, I don’t mind the rain at all, in fact I love it! There is something poetic about rain. It urges reflection, it’s God's way of cleansing and nourishing the earth. Besides, the drowned rat look seems to work for me in a quirky sort of way. At least, if I am having a bad hair day (which is most days), I can blame it on the rain (which is most days).  
As summer winds up, we begin to prepare our hearts and minds for the unthinkable….Quinn’s first day of school. Yes…I don’t quite know how to feel about it, but Quinn is ready and excited.  He has his backpack, lunch gear, and school supplies. Seems like a lot of stuff considering he’s only going for 3 hours a day to his little school. The other larger schools in the area require the kids to wear uniforms. I have to say after receiving the sales flyers from the local shops, that this is a brilliant idea and very economical.  A 2 pack of boys pants only 6 and a 2 pack of white polo shirts €3.50! And what little boy doesn’t look adorable in a school uniform? (I think I’m going to get those shirts even if he doesn’t have to wear a uniform.)  I’m sure we will soon post the pictures of our little man heading off to school….waaaaaaaa!!! Pray for me.

Have a Good Day Y’all!

One of the things I did miss this summer was celebrating the 4th of July. The last couple of years I have watched fireworks in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Virginia and Illinois. I will say, however that the holiday didn’t go totally unnoticed in Ireland. There were Independence Day celebrations in Dublin, Limerick and Moneygall (ancestral home of Barak Obama...or should it be O'Bama) and there was a nice sale on “American” goods at the local grocery. I knew this because I received the sale flyer(again) and the very back page was decked out in red white and blue stars and stripes in honor of the American holiday. At the top of the page in big blue letters it read “Have A Good Day Y’all!” I wasn’t sure whether I should feel offended or just laugh. So I laughed.  It’s no different than Americans advertising everything they think is Irish with a leprechaun.  The sale in the flyer featured food items typically thought of as American. They included burgers, hot dogs, BBQ sauce, peanut butter, muffins, chocolate chip cookie dough, pancakes, maple syrup, and cola. They got that right.

My Oh My, Stick it in a Pie!

My actual leftover pies...lovely
With a smaller fridge than what we have had in the past, I have learned to manage our meals in a different way. Gone are the days of too many condiments and leftovers that take up valuable space. Does one really need 8 bottles of salad dressing and 6 mustard options?  Well, maybe but I am beginning to like this more streamlined system. I have no need to stockpile canned goods in case we get snowed in or for Armageddon and luckily, we aren’t Mormon because we would have no way to store a years supply of food in case of emergency. I am in the habit of cooking to have leftovers. With leftovers in the fridge I don’t have to bother with making lunch the next day. We just revisit and pay homage to meals from our recent past. Since we no longer have the space to do that, I have found a solution to leftovers. I stick them in a pie. It always looks impressive. It looks so good, who really cares what’s inside, right? Leftover stew is perfect for this. It is really hard to make the right amount of stew for a small family anyway. No worries, stick it in a pie! My new solution for everything! I am sure that soon Andy will be experiencing (but maybe not enjoying)  lasagna pie, chowder pie, potato soup pie, spaghetti pie, pork chop and brussel sprout pie, salmon and asparagus pie, Caesar salad pie, veggie burrito pie, stir fry pie…. I mean really, the possibilities are endless!
Ok, for a while there I started to feel like Forrest Gump. I’m glad I got that out of my system.

A Vision in Bacon!

I mean...come on...pretty close, yeah?
Speaking of food, we had a divine moment last week. No, we didn’t see Jesus in a piece of toast, or Mary in an egg yolk, but as Andy was preparing a bit of bacon for Quinn’s breakfast, something amazing did appear.  We realized as the bacon was shrinking and crisping up in the pan that it was forming in the shape of ….could it be? Ireland! 
Is this a sign that we are meant to be in Ireland?
 Oh yeah, we are already here….so that came a bit late. Well, all funning about signs and visions aside, Quinn enjoyed his crispy Ireland bacon none the less and we had a good laugh.

Cheeky Boy!

Quinn worked out a difficult puzzle recently. I told him what a wonderful job he did and asked when he became so good at puzzles.
“I’m a very clever boy, mommy.” said Quinn in a very matter-of-fact sort of way.
Good to know.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Life and Times of a Confessed Sheep Addict

Life is rolling along here like the gentle green farmland of County Mayo (did that sound Irish?...probably not, but I tried). We are settling into a daily routine as we continue to serve the churches of Calvary Mission. We are learning more and more about our new surroundings as we chat with local folks, enjoy fellowship and work with our church, and visit our town’s museum and points of interest. I have been taking lots of pictures as a hobby to visually record the places we have seen and things we have done. As I was looking through pictures from various days, I realized that I had taken a disproportionate amount of pictures of sheep. I don’t have more pictures of sheep than I do of Quinn, but its close. It is true that every time I see a field of sheep, or a sheep next to a beautiful tree, or a sheep next to a stone wall, or a sheep with a little lamb, or a sheep by a shimmering stream, my index finger starts to twitch and I feel the urge to take another picture.
 I love sheep. I can’t get enough of them. Quinn understands this urge. He sees sheep and says “I wish I could run out there to that sheep and hug him and he wouldn’t run away”.  Oh, he gets it alright. The problem is that I see sheep every day! They are literally everywhere we go in Mayo. How many pictures of sheep does one person really need?  …apparently, for me, hundreds.

Quinn is developing a bit of musical talent. He used to ask us to turn off the music we might be playing and singing and dancing was definitely out of the question. The creative and musical culture of Ireland is starting to rub off on him. He is virtually a one man band all of a sudden. Maybe he has been influenced by all the street performers. On Wednesdays at the bookshop, sometimes Quinn will perform and Andy will talk to people and hand out free encouraging literature. I am not sure if his talent is attracting people or driving them away. You be the judge.

Yeah, maybe we will work on that a bit.

In May, Andy and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary! We took a quick 2 day trip to County Clare and County Galway to celebrate as a family. We saw Bunratty Castle the first day and the cliffs of Moher and the island of Inisheer the next. Quinn collected sea shells, played among the castle ruins.  It was a beautiful family outing that we will always remember. We also went to Rossnowlagh with our church for a weekend retreat. We had worship services each day, ate and recreated together. It was great craic (fun…pronounced crack).

We are still learning how our language is subtly different. Different meanings for the same word catch us off guard sometimes. For instance, the word craic (crack) I used previously. If someone were to say to an American, “we are going to have good crack at the church retreat this weekend” we might be thinking we needed to find a new church in which illegal drugs weren’t part of the worship.  Just sayin’.

Here's another one: the first few weeks we were here we wondered why people would say they would call, then not call and just show up at our doorstep. Of course we weren’t bothered at all by people dropping by, we actually love it. We figured it was just a cultural quirk until we finally realized that when they say they will call…it does mean drop by. If they were going to reach you by phone they say they will ring us. Oooohhhhhhhh……now we get it.  Also, a store is where you buy groceries and a shop is for everything else. If you say, “I went to the book store”, we get a funny look….like we eat books for dinner.

Well, that’s all for now…I am sure there is a sheep somewhere that needs a portrait taken. I also need to have crack and roast a book for dinner!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Settling In

Hello all!
We have had a crazy but wonderful couple of weeks getting settled in our apartment in Castlebar. We are well and getting adjusted. I won’t bog you down with all the details of getting phones, a car, car insurance, utilities, trash service, internet, visas, licenses….but I will say that the Irish move at a different pace than this Yankee girl is used to. And that’s OK. Andy's hair is gone and what there is left of it is gray, but I’m good with a slower pace. It’s not uncommon to be stopped in the middle of the road while 2 cars passing one another stop to have a nice chat while you wait. We have found the people of Castlebar to be friendly, warm and helpful. It’s quite nice.
Many have been asking me what the differences are that we are experiencing (especially food related).  

Here are a few:
-You have to have a license to own a TV. I thought maybe this was a good idea because TV can be as dangerous as driving a car or owning a concealed weapon but the locals insist it’s just another way for the government to tax you. If you find joy in something, the government will make you pay for it.

-Our apartment is heated with kerosene oil which is very expensive so we rely mostly on burning peat briquettes in the fireplace in the evening.

-It’s not even close to sandal wearing weather yet.

- I have to convert speeds to kilometers, pounds to kilograms and cups to liter portions, etc.

-Electric showers.  Just push a button and you get the perfect temp and pressure. But don’t forget to turn off the power to the shower, if you do and you try to use the other bathroom you will blow a fuse.

-Quinn is very confused by the different terminology: Cookies are biscuits, soccer is football, french fries are chips and chips are crisps, bacon is rashers. 

-Money: the smallest bill they print is 5, so they have 1 and 2 euro coins which add up fast when you forget those aren’t quarters in your pocket.

-Cars drive on the opposite side of road and drivers on opposite side of car. I will be slow to try this, it still freaks me out. Andy is a pro.

-Petrol (gas) for our car is very expensive (about $9 a gallon)so we got a diesel car to save a few Euro.
-All dials go to 11 instead of 10- one of Andy’s favorite things.

- Dinner is a meal size not a time. We were invited to dinner and expected to arrive in the evening but actually they wanted us over right after church. Dinner is the main meal of the day whether it is in the evening or at lunchtime. So if you invite someone for dinner, it doesn’t necessarily need to be in the evening. If you invite someone for “tea” (whether it is in the evening or at lunchtime) a small meal (like lunch) is expected.

-Toilet Paper Labels: US has teddy bears, quilts and babies, Ireland has kittens, puppies and bunnies (we use Kitten Soft, of course)

Food & Such:

-Refrigerators are much smaller, so you shop more often.

-We live about a mile from downtown Castlebar, so we walk to town most days to shop.

-A friend from church has chickens and ducks and is generous with the eggs. Duck eggs are delightful!

-Instant coffee is actually fantastic here…and this coming from an ex barista. We grabbed some in a pinch on our first few days here and have been loving it.

-Mexican food is nearly non-existent with the exception of the occasional tortilla and hot sauce. Even the international food grocers concentrate mostly on Indian and African foods.

-Beans on toast for breakfast…not so bad!

-The Guinness delivery semi arrives in town on Thursdays to gear up for the weekend…with more beer kegs than I have ever seen in my life. It is a double trailer semi flatbed delivery truck. Are there even enough people in town to drink that much beer? Yep.

-The potato is still king and there are surely no shortages! Many Irish know when each type of potato is in season and anticipate when their favorites hit the shelves.

-Rainbows are very common, corned beef the way we are used to is not.

Good News 4 You…and Me!
One of the ministry areas I will be serving is minding the Good News 4 You Christian bookstore that is owned by the Westport church. I am more than excited to be back working in a bookstore environment! Tourist season is quickly approaching and I will have a great opportunity to meet and chat with lot of people.

Another thing I love to do is read the weekly “paper”. With the internet, many now get their news from all sorts of digital media, but there is something about getting your local news locally.

Real Mayo newspaper headlines:

“Ballina Man Stole Wine on Good Friday”
He stole 2 bottles and was found later that evening staggering along the road. The article also says that it was raining at the time and there was poor lighting. I still don’t know what that has to do with the matter but it sets the atmosphere of the story up well I suppose.

“Man head butted security guard after seeing ex in Supermacs
awww...he was just upset they wouldn't let him in to see his ex. 

“Man Has Two Front Teeth Knocked Out in Brawl”
Turns out the guy who knocked out his teeth via a solid head butt was his good friend.  Probably still is.
What’s with all the head butting?
Welcome to Ireland!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

This is Really Happening

I keep hearing the line in my head from the movie Almost Famous "It's all happening!"
Yesterday we officially booked our flights to Ireland. We depart this country on April 14th.
I can't believe's all happening! We have spent the last 2 years prepping, fundraising, and sharing about our mission to Ireland knowing it was coming to fruition sometime in the future....the distant future. The future just caught up to us and it is becoming very real.
After we hit send and secured our tickets on Aer Lingus, I had a strange reaction. I suddenly felt very overwhelmed. Of course in true Genesis "can't do anything normal" fashion, "overwhelmed" manifested itself not in panic, anxiety, hyperventilation or nervous laughter. No...I developed an acute and speedy case of narcolepsy. I immediately fell asleep. As I now begin the process of planning our departure, I am really afraid I will wake up in a rubbermaid container in our storage unit or in a half packed suitcase wedged between a stack of size 4 Spongebob underwear and my scrapbooks.

I just have so many decisions to make and I am not sure where to start!

How exactly does one pack to relocate to another country? Do you go light, or cram as much as you can into 3 suitcases that weigh 300lbs each? Do you try to stockpile as much American gear as you can or just let it go and resolve to find new ways to outfit your family and home? Do I pack my favorite stainless steel measuring cups, or get revved up to buy ones marked with grams and milliliters? Oh, yeah I think I will enjoy weighing myself in kgs instead of lbs...much smaller number. Leave a comment on any good packing advise, insight or tips. I can really use some perspective.

A far worse problem is how to say goodbye to my family and friends.
I can't think about it at all. I think I am going to fall asleep. I can't really talk about it now.
Please refer to Melyssa's blog entitled "Blarney" for a really good way to manage our goodbyes and understand how I handle them as well. I run. I hide. I deny. I pretend I will see you tomorrow. When you do see me before I go, don't be offended if I seem unemotional or aloof. Just email, blog or write your goodbye in a card and hand it to me on the way out the door so I can keep avoiding the obvious. I will hydrate myself til I am bloated, read it on the plane and cry my way to the Emerald Isle.
I think I need a nap...zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Baby Boy!

Well, it has happened. I am the mother of a four year old. I WANT MY BABY PORKCHOP BACK!!!!! Not really. I have loved every age, so far. And 4 looks to be a fun one.
We took Quinn bowling for his birthday....see the video above for the highlights...or lowlights, or just to see what it is like to bowl with Quinn..... and wait 15 minutes for his ball to reach the pins.
Turn up the volume, baby. You'll be glad you did!
The day ended in the usual balloons, an overabundance of gifts and a chocolate cake coma.
 Here are a few photos for the road!

he's almost a grown man....sniff

Monday, October 17, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

     I am spending the last day of actually being in our apartment catching up on my thoughts before we hit the road again in the morning. We spent this summer in travel mode. We traveled across the States, and Andy traveled to Ireland for 10 days to find the town we will live in and the ministries we will serve. We have been back in Casper for exactly a week and a half. Just enough time to gather our thoughts reflect on decisions we have made and make some big new decisions.

                                                                                                                                        Decision #1: Submit
     I know, I know...that word! It makes my toes curl and my body tense. It even makes this modern American wife barf a little in my mouth. But to me I think I am learning what that word really means and what it doesn't. It does not mean subservient, shutting down your feelings or being blindly obedient as if you don't matter. I just can't make myself be the wife that puts on a fake, smile (with my teeth tightly clenched behind my trembling pursed lips) meekly saying "whatever you say, dear".  God knew what he was doing when He gave me the husband I have. He would never demand anything of me or make me do anything I didn't feel good about. He really does care what this opinionated girl thinks. He sometimes even thinks me wise and insightful...I've got him fooled.
      It's funny, a couple days ago I was spending time with my friend, Kim. She was trying to figure out what the deal was with the idea of submission and exactly what that looks like in her I was. She asked me what I thought it meant.
     For me what submission means is relinquishing my self-centered, only child, "I know best in all situations" will. Its a matter of releasing control and being totally and completely OK with things not always going my way or by my plan, agenda, likes and dislikes. OK, yeah...that was hard to say....even harder to do. It is also allowing my husband, son, friends etc. to do things on their own and not try to save them from every mistake with my advice or intervention. This is so hard to do sometimes because I can be arrogant enough to think I can actually do it all myself so it can get done "right"...whatever that means.

     I tested this submission thing when Andy went to Ireland. I decided to not go with him although I really wanted to. He never asked me not to go, he was actually expecting me to go. I really just wanted him to have uninterrupted time to pray and truly seek God's will for our mission. I knew that if I went I would be so tempted to insert my will into all aspects of the process from where to serve to what town to live in. I know me well enough to know that I will always seek the most comfortable situation....for me. I really wanted God to decide and not me. I just stayed at my mom's with Quinn and prayed for his quest. That, for me, was submission to God and faith in my husband to follow God's lead. He needed to do this, not me, not this time. It was hard. I hated did feel kind of good not to have to be in control.  I don't know why it should seem so hard because when I do choose "my way" and force everyone else to go along with it, I never seem to get the results I am hoping for anyway.....go figure.

                                                                                   Decision #2 Where We Will Live in Ireland

     While Andy was in Ireland we planned to communicate via Skype every day of his trip so he could let me know how things were shaping up. That didn't go according to plan either. Hurricanes, power outages and just plain bad signals kept our communication to a minimum. On the 9th day of the trip, Andy emailed me that he knew where we were supposed to live and that he would Skype me later when he got back to the hotel. I couldn't wait! I hope it was someplace dreamy sounding with a big castle nearby. Swords sounded so Camelot, I liked that. What about Limerick, that sounds very Irish or Shannon, very romantic. We couldn't get Skype to work so Andy went to a nearby pub to Instant Message me. I was so excited...
Andy logged on and said "hello" and began to type the name of the town we would be living in. Here it comes, I thought. The anticipation was killing me! Andy clicked send....and I quickly read the name of the unfamiliar town. DUNGHOLE! Seriously!?! I gave up everything and I am moving to Dunghole! Oh great, I get to live in the dunghole of just figures. Then I reread the said Dungloe not Dunghole. Andy explained that it is pronounced (Dune-'low)....whew...that's better. It is a town of about 2000 on the northwest coast on the Atlantic ocean. It looks very sweet, not like a dunghole at all.

Decision #3 Letting Go and Facing the Obvious
When we returned to Casper a week and a half ago we sat down and regrouped after all the travel and planning. We realized that we have been paying rent on an apartment that we have used for 2 weeks this summer. That is a really expensive storage unit. So we have decided to move out at the end of November, after our upcoming trip to Idaho and Oregon. Where will we live? Wherever! Since we spend most of our time on the road anyway, we will get a small storage unit in Indy and be loosely based out of my mom's house. We will mostly be on the road and hopping between friends, family, missionary housing and towns with churches interested in our mission. We are praying about making our final move overseas in 2012. This will be an interesting time for us. Not having a place of our own will be strange. Lucky for us we have dear friends that have been in the same spot and fellow missionaries that are living a similar lifestyle that can help support us. I am learning how to let go of "things" and live out of Rubbermaid containers and suitcases.

Quinn is so unfazed by all the travel.He actually likes it.  He talks about all the people he has met and played with. Because we return to so many places as well, he loves seeing his friends and family over and over again!

Anyone who has advice about how to pack for this new lifestyle of ours, please leave comments. We need all the input we can get from what not to forget to keep with us to tips on making everywhere seem a little like home!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Weathering Life's Storms

Last night we returned from a marathon trip east for a few appointments for our mission and to visit friends and family. We had a great time and were thrilled that we were able to visit family and friends in NY, MI, IL and IN. Quinn had a ball with his cousin, friends and grandparents that spoiled him silly! What could be better for a happy 3 year old! 

On our way back to WY we ran into some trouble through Nebraska. We pulled off the highway to gas up and take Quinn to potty (again...) and noticed that the skies looked pretty black to the North. We were only about 100 miles from our hotel and this was our last stop. By the time we finished, the black sky was directly over us so we hurried back in the car and got back on the highway. As we were merging into traffic, we heard the tornado sirens going off all around us. We had to make a quick decision. We could either get back off the highway and hunker down until the storm passed or hightail it for the golf ball sized blue sky on the western horizon that we figured was about 20 miles away. We did what we Kohlers do, and hit the gas!
Andy said "I am going to keep my eye on that spot of blue sky and I need you to look to the north for funnel clouds." Every muscle and sphincter in my body tightened as I began my watch. Quinn didn't even notice...he was safe with mommy and daddy. There were layers of dark clouds overhead that were travelling in different directions. The trees and grass were being bent over by the wind to the SW but the low, dark clouds directly overhead were quickly travelling to the NE.  Andy said "that is a recipe for disaster." We kept on heading for that ever growing blue ball of sky even though the wind was rocking our car. Finally there was a break in the sky, the big fluffy white clouds on the horizon were filtering beautiful sunbeams and the darkness was in the rear view mirror. We beat the storm.
When we made it to our hotel I got on the laptop and discovered that there had been tornadoes on 'INTERSTATE 80 BETWEEN MILE MARKERS 357 AND 364' which included the station at which we stopped for gas. It kind of knocked me back a bit when I realized that we just outran a tornado and I felt a sudden surge of gratefulness. Thank you, God!
This got me thinking about the storms we all face in life and how we deal with them.
One of our stops on our trip was to Michigan to visit our dear friends the Williams for a couple of days and see what life was like for them living and working at a Children's Home lovingly caring for 5 teen boys. They gave up everything including their home and possessions to relocate to an unfamiliar state far from home to serve God by being house parents for a gaggle of kids. We were excited to see them and share in their experience. The first night we were there we all gathered around a bonfire, had s'mores, talked, laughed and sang songs to God with the Williams family and their 5 boys. What a great night! It was apparent that even though they experienced plenty of ups and downs caring for teen boys, the Williams provided a safe, loving and Godly home for them. They loved the boys and the boys loved the Williams family. We were excited to see them and sample a bit of what their life was like. What we didn't know was that an unexpected storm was brewing in their life and we were going to be there when it hit.
The next day, the Williams family was fired from their job as house parents with no warning and no tact. The excuse given was cold, slanderous, heartless and unjust (in my opinion) and my suspicion is that the true reason was nothing more than a personality clash. Not only were the boys devastated, the Williams family found themselves in the eye of a serious storm. They were given mere days to pack up what little they still owned and leave the home they had created for the boys that needed and loved them. It was so unfair. It made me angry, sad and devastated for them. But one thing was true, this storm was bad and we needed to pitch in along side of their loving church family to help clean up the aftermath. I believe God designed our trip to fall when this happened. We love the Williams and were blessed to be there for them during their storm. While trying to grieve and deal with the betrayal they felt (not to mention the concern for the boys), they gathered their belongings with grace, held their heads high and moved on faithfully knowing that God still had their best in mind. They weathered their storm.
"He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed."             Psalm 107:29
Lets face it, storms suck. We all face them in our lives whether it be the loss of a job, loss of a loved one, tragedy, illness, or countless others. God never promises that we wont face storms, but through our faith in Jesus we can weather them.

"Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” -Matthew 8:23-27