Category Archives: Connie

Forever 39

My best friend, Connie, died a few months before her 40th birthday.  Today would have been her 47th birthday.

I think she would have disliked getting older, and eventually old.

She would have loved seeing her oldest son becoming homecoming king at his college, and having even more fun in college than she did.  She would have loved seeing her oldest daughter get married, and loved having a son-in-law.  She would have loved seeing her youngest son working along side her dad making and fixing stuff.  And she would have loved seeing her youngest daughter become the quintessential young lady.  She would have loved hearing her kids laugh together as nearly grown ups.  She would have loved looking forward to grandchildren.  She would have loved being able to celebrate all the wedding anniversaries she has missed.  I and her husband (my brother) have toasted to her with a bottle of Dom on their anniversary every year since she left.  She would have loved all that great champagne that I got drink instead.

But she would have hated having to wear reading glasses just to be able to read her watch.  She would have been frustrated with her hands losing strength and her fingers getting crooked and stiff.  She would have hated that sometimes hopping out of bed would be more like groaning and rolling out.  She would NOT have been on board with the whole “the spirit is willing, but the body is weak” thing that happens with age.  She would have not liked anything about aging that would have slowed her down.

She’s missed all that good stuff and will miss a lot more…but she has missed the bad stuff, too, including the creaky parts of aging.  I know that she is likely laughing at me wearing readers and pushing ever closer to 50 every time her birthday rolls around and she still gets to be 39…forever 39.


Time Does Not Heal All Wounds

Eighteen years ago today I was at work.  I called to check on my best friend/sister-in-law who was ready to give birth to her first child any day.  She was doing great but was experiencing an uncontrollable urge to, well, to put it as delicately as possible, have a bowel movement.  “DON’T PUSH, and get to the hospital!!” I told her.  Not long after that Richard arrived.  WHAT a cutie.  He was named in honor of his two grandfathers, Richard and Daniel.  A first grandchild and grandson for the both of them.  I was a very excited and proud first-time auntie.

Four years ago today I was working my last, and for the most part, rather uneventful shift in the ER.  I had turned in my resignation and was planning my move from Los Angeles to Colorado which was to take place in just a month.  I was excited about the new life which awaited me and all the adventures I was to have.  And I was thinking of my oldest nephew, Richard, who was on vacation with friends but was turning 14.

Just a couple of hours before my last shift was to end I got the phone call that didn’t change any of that, but changed absolutely everything.

Instead of long and tearful good-byes with my co-workers, I started the longest and most tearful good-bye of my life.  One that, as of today, has lasted four years.

I no longer count the time Connie has been gone in minutes, or hours, or days, or weeks, or even in months, but in years.  It’s still surreal to me.  I miss her every minute.

Congratulations on your 18th birthday Dicky Dan.  Your mother would have loved to see you and the man you have become.

I love you both, to the ends of the earth and to the highest heaven.

New Gadget – “Unpaid Product Endorsement”

I have loads of negatives and slides that have been lying fallow in boxes.  Many of the prints for the negatives are long gone – given away.  Some are in this or that scrap book.  The prints don’t scan well, at least not with my scanner, which I thought was pretty good, but not so much for photos.  My slides are fewer, but the majority of them are from the summer I spent with Teen Missions in the Philippines.  The summer I met my best friend Connie.  They are pictures and slides that I wish I had access to.  Pictures I’d like to share with family and friends…

And now I can.

Many years ago I looked into buying a system which would transfer these negatives and slides to a digital format.  At the time, the technology was uber expensive and I shelved the idea.  On a plane a few years or so ago in the “Sky Mall” magazine, I saw a device that was much more compact and much less expensive, but still a bit spendy.

On “Cyber Monday” I found a 5 megapixel number for $79 bucks that had excellent reviews and was even smaller than the ones I had looked at before.  I typed, clicked, and bought.  And yesterday, it arrived.  So cool.  Pop the negatives or slides into special trays, run them into the machine, and presto, JPGs!!!!

It’s called the Ion Slides 2 PC.  It’s so easy to use it’s almost a crime.  The quality of the end result isn’t spectacular, but I’m thrilled with it, nonetheless.  My slides are grubby and have particles adhered to them.  I need to look into how to safely clean them.  This is one of the scanned negatives:

Mitchell's Filas by you.

This is my nephew, Mitchell, when he was just learning to walk, wearing a pair of Filas I bought for him when he was still a wee baby.  Watching him walking in these (I believe this might be the first time he was in shoes at all) was soooo funny!

And this is one of the scanned slides, complete with specks of dust or whatever:

Connie and Panda by you.

This one is of Connie.  We were on a bus somewhere in China, and she fell asleep with this panda on her lap.  I love this picture.  I’m excited to have it not in a box somewhere.

Because of the cheap price, ease of use, and pretty darn good JPGs it creates from old negatives and slides, the Ion Slides 2 PC gets “Unpaid Product Endorsement” status.

Happy Birthday, Connie

This is a day where we as Americans remember and honor those who have fought for us and our freedoms, and fought so that others could enjoy the same freedoms we do.  It is a day where I remember and honor them.  It also happens to be the birthday of my best friend and sister-in-law, Connie.  Today I remember and honor her as well.

Connie was as brave as any soldier and truer than all.

This is Connie’s fourth birthday away from us.  She would have been 43.  I liked it when she had her birthday because it meant that for a few short weeks, we were the same age and she couldn’t needle me about being older than her, which I was, by a little over 10 and a half months.

It’s really more like the fourth anniversary of her 39th birthday.  I’m way older than her now.  That probably delights her…


I miss her as much today as I think I ever have.

Tent Sweet Tent

I’d like to welcome you to my home!  This was it this past summer in Malawi.  Some nights I almost couldn’t wait to crawl inside it and curl up on my air mattress and soak in the night sounds.  In Zambia two years it ago, it was soooo cold at night that I dreaded “lights out”.  This year, despite being the neighbor to the east of Zambia, the Malawi nights were relatively warm.  Perhaps this was due to the proximity to Lake Malawi?

Home Sweet Malawi Home by you.

Despite its relatively small size, I was still able to often lose fairly important articles inside of it.  I lost my toothbrush once for almost a week.  You can’t just run down to the store to buy a new one, ya know?  I finally had the time to tear everything apart and find it, but by then the brush and interior of the case had mildewed.  Pretty gross.  So, what do you do?  You pop it into a pot of boiling hot water!  Good as new…almost.  (ew)

Even though I was very comfortable at night I often did not sleep much.  If I got five hours of sleep I felt pretty lucky (this from a 9 or 10 hour a night sleeper).  Since I didn’t have much time to myself during the days, I decided to embrace my sleeplessness and enjoy the nighttime “solitude” in my little home.  I would spend the hours thinking, remembering, planning, and praying.  It’s funny where one’s brain goes when one is lying awake on top of an air mattress and sleeping bag listening to the distant waves of a lake on the shore with the bright African moon illumunating brightly when one is in the uttermost part of the earth…I’d get flight of ideas and wonder…

…how well would I be sleeping if my cat was here with me…(and then I’d miss her)…

…will anyone puke tonight?…(and I’d pray not)…

…are the dogs in my “kitchen” again?…(and if they are, did I prepare well enough so they couldn’t rob me?)…

…are those REALLY waves I’m hearing?…

…if he has Aspberger’s…(or what?)…

…when the propane tank is going to run out, again…

…why the dusk malaria mosquitos are so small and the dawn dengue mosquitos SO HUGE…

…how much more food can I buy with the money I have left “in the food account”… and will there be anything more than sugar, tomatos, yams, oil, and eggs to be bought next time?…

…how it is possible that it’s going to be three years already since Connie died…(and then I’d miss her, too)

I would pray for whatever and whoever showed up in my mind and eventually I would drift off to sleep.  Occasionally I would dream.  But every morning, when I unzipped my tent and crawled out, I was met with the most brilliant skies reflecting off the lake and I’d forget how tired I was and I’d wrap myself in the beauty and wildness of it all.  And I’d wonder what I ever did to deserve this amazing life God had given to me…

Photo Friday – “Doors, Doorways, & Entries”

Today’s Photo Friday is entitled:

Doors, Doorways, & Entries″


I was out of town this week in Wisconsin and Illinois.  My father’s oldest brother passed away and I went back to be with my family and for the funeral.  I don’t get to see my midwest family often enough, and I very much enjoyed my time with them, despite the circumstances. 

Spring was in full glory back there.  It was like the Emerald City wherever you looked.  It was so beautiful I had to ask myself “Why don’t I live HERE?”.  But then I remembered that on one side of this gorgeous spring is a heinous winter, and on the other, an even more heinous summer – HOT and buggy!  🙂

Camera in hand, I had this week’s challenge in my head wherever I went.  My dad (originally from Kenosha, WI) and I drove around town and I took pictures of all of the houses he he lived in when he lived there.  There are doors in most of those pictures, but nothing sang to me.  I also have a pretty cool picture of the door to a lighthouse, but it didn’t sing either.

I left Kenosha after breakfast one morning and decided to drive north to Racine (next town up Lake Michigan) to just wander around the city where my best friend, Connie, had lived when I met her.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I ended up not staying long because I got really sad being there.  So I headed south to Chicago.  I love Chicago.  My plan was to roam around down there and then head over to my friend Kevin’s brother’s house where I would meet up with his parents and we’d all spend the evening together before leaving the following morning.  Kevin was in Vegas for work, so he couldn’t be there with us.  😦  Anyhoo, as I was driving down to Chicago, I saw this coming up in the distance, so I grabbed my camera, turned it on, aimed it through the windshield, and shot this pic at about 80 mph!  🙂 

This sign always makes my heart beat fast because not too much farther down the road the skyline of Chicago starts to come in to view.  The city is vibrant, and busy, and noisy, and crammed with people.  And Kevin lives there.  And so, it’s always a place of fun and excitement for me. 

Only Kevin wasn’t there this time.  I drove around town and was amazed at how much it had changed and grown since last I was there.  But the more I looked, the more lonely I got. 

I don’t know what I was thinking, going to these places where Connie used to be, and Kevin wasn’t, right on the heels of a funeral.

But anyway, my picture is more of an “entry” than anything else…an entry into the best big city in America.

Please visit the other participants’ entries and check out their work!

Idea jump! & Just for fun & A Curious State of Affairs & Sky Windows 


Future Photo Friday titles:

Friday 23th May : Title by Julie: Emotion

Friday 30th May : Title by CordieB: Phantasmagoria

Friday 6th June : Title by Author: Diptychs

(or Triptychs if you prefer to use 3 images)


Dan, A Wal-Mart Associate

My best friend’s parents live in Arkansas.  Though he doesn’t look it, her father Dan must be Jamaican….he has like thirty jobs.  😉

One of those jobs is a night shift at Wal-Mart.

Dan and Lorraine are prolific e-mailers.  They used to be prolific letter writers…but then the internet happened.  Boy, are they are FUNNY!  They write the most amazing vignettes.  I am lucky enough to be on the family distribution list, so I get regular e-mail updates from them.  I often, and I mean OFTEN, want to start a new blog where I would just post their e-mails, but that would be sort of rude, since they are personal notes, AND I’ve not exactly been authorized to do that!

However, tonight’s e-mail entitled “Wednesday Evening” contained a couple of sentences that I couldn’t resist:

“…they announced in our
Associate Meeting (which ends in a silly Wal-Mart Cheer) last night
that “Santa will be in EVERY Wal-Mart
…EVERY weekend…until Christmas”
…”So bring your kids and a camara”.
How is this possible? No wonder the toys all come from China…Santa is too busy
hanging out at Wal-Mart. At least Stone County is “dry” so Santa will be sober

Classic.  Just classic!

Since most of the people I know get plenty of lead and Rohypnol in their diets already, I’ve decided to “boycott” China and not buy anything that is made there or imported from there.  I have found that I needn’t bother shopping at all, so I’ll sure save a bunch of money on presents this year!

The Dragonfly

It was quite possibly the largest dragonfly I’ve ever seen. 

My niece Avalon and I were back to a location I’d been to twice already in search of a geocache that had me completely stumped.  I brought Avie there while we were out looking for a handful of other caches because I needed a fresh pair of eyes.  Fresh eyes didn’t help.  The search did bring me to a wonderful location that I’d wanted to explore but never had despite having lived just two miles from it for fifteen years.  An old railroad bridge.

We took the opportunity to take a foot picture by an old railroad spike.  Avalon is wearing her pink plastic lawn flamingo slip-on Vans (a tribute to her mother).

We failed in our search for the cache.  On our way back to the car I spotted this dragonfly about six feet up the trunk of some kind of eucalyptus tree.  In vain I attempted to capture him on my digital camera.  I sure wished I’d had my trusty 35 mm Canon EOS Elan with me.  I tried regular settings, macro settings, standing back and zooming in.  I tried it from all kinds of angles and approaches, but I could not get a good picture.  The best one, this one, was taken from about eight feet back, zoomed in, and with a flash.  Avalon was convinced that this big guy (probably five inch wing span) was dead.  She poked at him a few times with a long stick, and declared “Yup.  He’s dead.”  Just then he took off!  He’d had enough of her.  It scared us both a bit.  A bug that big flying around makes a heck of a lot of noise.  (And I instinctively opened my mouth to keep him from sewing it shut!

Look at those gorgeous colors and patterns on him.  I’m so disappointed that I couldn’t get a better shot, but I am pleased that you can see the veining in the gossamer of his wings.

We found four other caches in short order that day.  One of them posing as a reflector on a phone pole was a work of geocache art! 

Dreams and Sadness

Every once in awhile I get to dream about her.  I often remember my dreams.  I am lucky.  My brother would love to dream about her.  Or better, remember the dream if he had one.  Maybe I get the dreams because I remember them.  I hesitate sharing my dreams with Phil.  It’s hard on him.  He wants so much to see Connie again, even if it’s in his sleep.  But he’s told me he wants to hear about the dreams anyway, even though it wrecks him.  Grief is never far from us.

I got “a Connie dream” sometime on Saturday before rising.  I remember the jeans she was wearing.  I remember them because I was surprised she was wearing them.  She always thought they were “too tight”.  They weren’t, but she thought they were.

I also remember that she came to me to share something that had been on her heart. 

As Christians, we are taught that there is no sadness or grief in heaven.  Connie wanted to let us know that even though there is not “sadness” there, that she is not unaware of OUR sadness and that she has deep emotion about our grieving.  I have no idea if this is Biblically accurate or not, but it was comforting to me to think that she is perhaps able to see us and know that we miss her, and that she, having gone before us, is looking forward to the day when we will reunite again, and there will be no more tears.  I often tire of crying.  I cry so easily since she died. 

I have no idea how heaven works, except that the joy of being with our Savior must be beyond measure. 

One of my niece’s school friends, only 14 years old, died suddenly while at school earlier this week.  And the sister/daughter of friends of mine passed away Saturday after a long illness.  A friend of mine called me from work yesterday.  She was waiting for the family of a young husband and father who collapsed and died playing basketball to arrive at the emergency department so that they could be told of their loss.  One completely unexpected death, one not wholly unexpected death, and the death of man to whom I have no connection, has touched my life this week.  And Connie.  Somehow this “visit” of hers to my dream has comforted me. 

My heart grieves as each of these families is only beginning to deal with the loss of their loved one.  I can’t help but remember what these first days were like for me and my own family.

To the families of Megan, and of Jan, and of this unknown young man, you are in my thoughts and my prayers.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

One Year Ago Today…Two Years Ago Today

This is a big thank you to all my ZFWers who, last year at this time, were so kind and understanding to me as I faced the one-year anniversary of Connie’s death.  I had no idea what to expect from myself emotionally, and neither did they.  But they were all so supportive of me.  And it wasn’t bad and it wasn’t scary.  I didn’t have any sort of emotional breakdown, or anything like that.  It was another day in my life.  Just a little bit sadder than most.  And I was in Lufwanyama, Zambia.  Away from my family.  I worried about them, but what could I do?  I was a million miles away.

Some weeks later I received a notification from the post office in Ndola that there was a package for me.  The package was from Phil and it instructed me to open it only on July 29th.  However, July 29th had long ago come and gone.  So I opened it anyway.  I found a nice quiet place and began to look through all the wonderful pictures that Phil had sent me.  He had also sent me a small tape player with headphones and a tape.  (These types of things are against TMIs rules.  But I popped the tape in and listened anyway.)  The tape was of him talking.  And of music.  I smiled as I wept.  I never thought I’d make it through a year.  But I had.  And so had Phil.  And so had his kids.  And so had we all.  And what a wonderful thing for Phil to do for me…to have planned that far ahead to do something in memorial for my best friend and his wife.  I think he’s the only person who really understands how much that girl meant to me.

And, unbelievably, now it has been two years.

Soooooo, in memory of Connie, here’s an e-mail of hers that she might have turned into a blog posting had she ever become a blogger!  (I am posting it exactly as written and without any editing…)

Sent:            Monday, September 13, 1999  11:47 PM

Subject:      The Store

I should know better than to go grocery shoppping with four children under the age of eight but after we had consumed everything edible in the house except for a jar of sweet pickles and a frozen tamale it is something that just had to be done.  Before we even got into the parking lot Richard and Alaska have all but gouged one another’s eyes out over the radio.  Richard jumped at the chance to stay in the car so he could listen without any disruptions while I braved the store.  As I was extricating Avalon from the car Mr. three year old I-CAN-DO-IT-MYSELF decided he would get a cart.   Not just any cart will do.  We have to use the limo cart that has additional seating added on the back to make it extra specially hard to start, stop and maneuver corners.  As Alaska was busy getting in her parting punches at Richard I see Jon way over by the cart rack tugging with all his might on the line of carts.  Now I must digress here for a moment and ask why do they design the fronts of grocery stores with a sloping entrance?  Of course the incline is heading down away from the store and towards the parking lot.  I guess this is for the people who have $500 to spend on groceries and only shop once a month so they are able to push their grossly overladen cart out to their car.  However if you are like me, $100 worth of groceries barely covers the bottom of the cart and sometimes I can even get them all in the house in one trip.  So here I am past the point of no return in having Avalon out of the car when Jon manages with a  fnal mighty heave to get the cart out of line.  Of course all that momentum carries the cart into the gravity zone.  The next thing I know he is being dragged by the cart out into the lot and headed straight for the nearest parked cars.  By this time the cart has developed a mind of its own and even if I was Carl Lewis and unencumbered of the 30 pound babyseat I would not be able to stop this lumbering metal behemoth.  Now this cart had a choice between a banged up old 70’s sedan and a brand new foreign luxury car.  It makes straight for the alarm infested auto.  My life at this point goes into slow motion.  As Jon is struggling valiantly to hang on and his little feet dragging and twisting all around he managed to impede the determined dent inflicter long enough for me to intercede in the nick of time.  I took a deep breath, loaded up the cart with my children, and pushed my way uphill toward the door.  All of the sudden the cart is no longer an ordinary means of conveyance but an airplane with my children’s arms serving as wings.  Actually I believe it turned into a hummingbird–at least airplain wings remain fixed.  At the end of the first aisle as I am attempting my first big turn Jon makes a full body lunge for the promotional 5′ high cardboard display of crackers.  The display goes over in it’s entirety carrying with it dozens of boxes of Waverly’s and Cheese Nips.  It must have been some big sale because there were at least four of those stupid plastic price signs that they use product to hold to the shelf and if you happen to grab the wrong box go clattering noisily to the floor.  At this exact moment in time I think every customer in the store must have converged at this strategic corner because all of the sudden it was like being on the 405 freeway at 5PM.  The butcher came over and assisted the reconstruction of the cracker tower.  I continued onward taking care to remain in the exact center of each aisle.  We actually managed to finish the shopping without further incident and headed for the checkout.  Alaska started to unload the basket while I checked one aisle over to grab a pack of batteries.  I am finally starting to relax and the basket is beginning to get to the point where Alaska can no longer reach over and get things when the checker asks the lady in front of us if the baby food was hers.  Neither the lady ahead nor us had been paying much attention and we had neglected to put one of those little divider thingies down between our myriad’s of stuff.  Half of our groceries were being loaded up by the bagger into her cart.  After the checker voided at least a dozen items and everything was backed up on the couunter about 2 feet high she decided it would be best to void the whole order and have someone take her over to another register.  The only good thing about all this was that the lady in front of us was not the least big upset by the whole thing and checker calmed down after she realized that no one was going to explode.  I figured the lady must have kids of her own because a lot of the items she bought were similar to ours — right down to the Wonder Bread.  I’m sure this must account for her not realizing sooner the mix up and also for her understanding.  Maybe it had happened to her before and it is also the reason she was grocery shopping by herself.  Connie

(posted in absentia) 

Sweet Sixteen…

Is it still a Sweet Sixteen if the 16-year old is not a girl? 

Richard is the oldest of all my nieces and nephews.  And he’s turning 16 today.  Quite a milestone.  How can he be that old already?  How can I be old enough to have a nephew that old? 

This is a day of celebration.  And a day of sorrow, too.  The day that Richard was born was such a happy day.  My parents welcomed their first grandchild.  And I welcomed my first nephew…the son of my big brother and my best friend.  What an amazing gift.  And what a sweet baby he was.  And what a sweet young man he has remained.  But the celebration of the day of his birth is now inextricably linked to the saddest day.  Two years ago today, on Richard’s birthday, his mother passed away.  Today I celebrate the life of a most wonderful child, and I remember the life his most wonderful mother.

There is a part of me that wants to try to keep Richard’s birthday separate from Connie’s death.  But how?  How do you separate the two?  It happened.  And for whatever reason, God chose to link the two events. 

I love you, Richard.  Happy 16th Birthday.  Wish I was there to celebrate with you.  Last summer I was in Zambia on this day.  By this time this summer I’ll be back from Sicily and in Florida.  Perhaps they will let me sneak away to call you.

And, Connie, I miss you.  I can’t believe it’s been two years already.  God has been so merciful to me in your absence. 

A “Richard Quote” to close out this post…

The last time I visited Los Angeles, we did some geocaching.  Because I don’t have a GPS device, I am sort of limited in the types of caches I can go for.  They tend to be more urban in nature so that the satellite maps can guide me.  Geocaching my way was a bit of a letdown for Richard who was used to doing wilderness caches with his Mom.  He informed me of this:

“It’s not Geocaching unless there’s a chance of getting lost or of being attacked by a puma.”

Richard, 03/12/07

You crack me right up!  I’ll be home in a couple of days, so I’ll be talking to you soon.

(posted in absentia)

Happy Anniversary, CHI PHI!

Twenty five years ago this month I embarked on a journey.  I had no idea the profound changes that this journey would bring to my life when I got on a plane and flew to Florida to go on my second Teen Missions team.  I would have posted this on the actual anniversary of my first day on that team, but I can’t find my journal or my “scrapbook”, so I’m not exactly sure what day that was!  So I am randomly picking today to celebrate that day! 

I had gone on a team to Haiti the year before.  And I left some business unfinished when I was there.  Other than I had a great experience and wanted more, that bit of unfinished business was the primary reason why I was going back on another team.  I felt that the Lord had asked me to dedicate my life to His service.  I assumed that meant the mission field at the time.  But I had resisted making that dedication.  And I knew I needed to do it.  So, when the brochures came out for the 1982 teams, I immediately started to think about where I should go.  There were a half dozen or so teams that caught my attention.  But ultimately I wanted to go to Papua New Guinea or South Africa.  There was another team though that I couldn’t get out of my head.  A team that would take me to the Philippines and Red China.  I couldn’t decide.  After some thinking and praying, I decided PNG was not the right place.  But I couldn’t decide between the other two.  So I got a coin.  Heads South Africa.  Tails the Philippines.  The instant that heads came up I knew where I was going.  In the brief moment when my eyes first registered it was heads, I was disappointed.  So I knew.  I was going to the Philippines!

I was the last person on my team to arrive.  I had met one of the boys on my team, Matthew, the summer before on the bus from LA to Florida.  The team was starting to wonder if I was coming at all, but Matt knew that I was going to be late due to having to take finals, and assured them I was coming.  I am told he was dancing through the jungle singing “Linda Lou, where are you?”.  So, although no one had ever called me Linda Lou, or Lou, or anything even remotely like that, by the time I arrived, I had a nickname.  A nickname with many variations which has stuck to this day.      

And I met Connie and Kevin that summer.  Actually, I met lots of people.  But I never  could have dreamed of how important Connie and Kevin would become to me when I first met them.  I didn’t even LIKE Connie when I first met her!  Who knew that by the end of the summer I would have two best friends in the two of them?  Lifelong heart kind of friends.

A woman by the name of Marilyn Lazslo was the boot camp speaker that summer.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  What an amazing woman.  In the 60’s she went to the head hunting jungles of New Guinea with Wycliff as a single woman and lived in a village called Huana.  She learned the language and translated the Bible.  (They called her Mama Marilyn).  Over the years I have run into Marilyn here and there.  She most recently shared an evening with friends of mine in Pasadena.  Boy, was I jealous of them!  Another amazing thread which started that summer and has continued through my life to this day.

Our project was to build a church on the beautiful island of Bohol, in the city of Duero.

Here’s CHI PHI.  And that’s me, on the scaffolding on the left of the photo, blowing a bubble.

What is CHI PHI?  Since the team was going both to CHIna and the PHIlippines, we called it “Chi Phi” for short.  (Note:  although Chi and Phi are both greek letters, we didn’t pronounce “chi” the Greek way, we prounounced it like it sounds when you pronounce “CHIna”.)

I had the very unusual opportunity to get baptized while I was in the Philippines.  Because the church we were working with was my home denomination (Evangelical Free), those of us on the team who belonged to an EV Free church at home were allowed to be baptized if we wanted.  And I wanted.  So, I was baptized  25 years ago on August 18th in the South China Sea off the coast of Bohol by Reverend Cennit along with three other teammates of mine and a dozen or so church members.  God could have led me to be baptized anywhere and at any time.  But He made it so I could have the most special baptism experience that I could ever have imagined.  And I think that the four of us are the only four TMIers who have ever been baptized while on a team with Teen Missions that didn’t have permission from our parents beforehand.  I thank God that Bob Lane was listening to God’s voice that day by allowing US to also listen.  That baptism was a turning point in my life.  Well, it was my “no turning back point”.  God met me that day in Bohol.  And He’s continued to meet me in ways I could never have imagined since that day.  (If you are a Christian and have not been baptised, do it.  Pray about when and where, and listen for the answer and do it.) 

And, at debrief, in Cebu, I took care of that unfinished business I was talking about.  I dedicated my life to full-time ministry.  And the funny thing is, God hasn’t taken me up on that promise I made to him.  At least not in a vocational way.  Perhaps someday He will!  I’m still willing!

So, unbelievably, it has been 25 years since the above picture was taken.  We had a ten-year reunion to which fifteen or so people came.  But I have lost touch with most everybody on this team over the years.  This picture is on my bookcase in my bedroom so I think often of “Chi Phi”.  And I wonder where Don is and if he and Narges have children.  I wonder what ever happened to Stacey.  I wonder why Matt is so elusive.  And Judy?  Where’d life take her?  Eric.  And Roby.  They lived then not far from where I live now.  Last I knew of him, Roby was married and had a bunch of kids.  And Eric was living in Los Angeles being an actor, or something.  Cricky.  I’d sure love to see her.  And freak-me-green Gordy?  What did he grow up to be?  And I wonder if any of them besides Matt and Kevin, and Bob and Betty, know that Connie died. 

My head leaders that summer were Bob and Betty.  They were pretty new to the Teen Missions organization back then and had only been staffers for a year or two.  They were soooo strict!  🙂  At least it seemed then like they were.  I had such a chip on my shoulder back then that I think I wrote that Bob and Betty should never be allowed to lead a team again!  🙂  Well, Bob and Betty are still with Teen Missions.  I’m glad TMI didn’t take MY advice!  Time has mellowed Bob and Betty, as it has mellowed me.  I enjoyed every minute I shared with them at boot camp last summer and I’m certain I’m enjoying seeing them again this summer.  I guess they’ve forgiven my rashness.

I was seventeen back then.  Twenty five years have absolutely flown past since then.  That summer, the people I met, and the experiences I had resonates throughout my life stronger and stronger every day.  What a summer that was.

What a summer that was…

(posted in absentia)

Zambian Orphan Rescue Units, An Update

Teen Missions recently updated their website with recent reports (this month) from a number of the ORUs (Orphan Rescue Units) in Zambia.  Please take the time to read about all the good things that are happening at these units.  And you can read about some of the sad things, too.

Link to the ORU updates

And the Funda unit?  Well, (unless something has changed that I don’t know about) that’s “Connie’s Heart“. 

Link to the Funda Unit update 

MY heart is overwhelmed to read about children (and grown-ups, too) a world away whose lives are being changed because of Connie.  I will find out much more when I arrive at Boot Camp and talk to the Petersons who run the Zambian ministry.  It sounds like perhaps the Foot Washing team might be visiting “Connie’s Heart” this summer!  I can hardly wait to hear first hand what is happening there!

When MY Plans Change…

There is a lesson that God has been teaching me since I was young.  (Well, there’s more than ONE!)  But this particular lesson is, “when my plans change it’s time to pay very close attention”.  Why?  Because that’s often when God’s plan differs from mine.  It’s often the time when God has a special gift in his hands for me.

Since Connie died, I have been more acutely aware of this.  My plan would have been to have Connie in my life, in all our lives, forever.  But that clearly wasn’t God’s plan.  And since she died, in some inexplicable way, I have become more alive.  My life has been overflowing with gifts.  My life itself is a gift.  But God has seen fit to give me just about the best life ever.  I don’t understand it since my life has been one that has been full of tears for many reasons since she died.  Perhaps for me, at this point in my life, that’s where the being more alive lives, in all the tears.

I think that God uses this “change of plan” format in order to give us direction.  It may be that we are on the correct course and it’s simply time to veer left or veer right for a moment and then return to our previous course.  Or we may need to turn hard to the left or hard to the right and continue on in the new direction.  Or it may be that we are in need of a radical course correction because we’ve been doing things only our way and trying to control our own life.

Connie was a hard right turn.  My life’s trajectory was changed forever.

And I recently experienced a “veer right and return to my previous course” sort of event.  I was in Denver earlier this week going to a doctor’s appointment with friends.  The car we were in had a dead battery when we returned to it after the appointment.  Click click click.  As I stood under the building’s awning watching and waiting for security to come and give us a jump, a woman joined me.  I won’t go into the details of what transpired between us, but I had the opportunity to do something for her that was very out of my character, and very out of my comfort zone.  But I was led to be at that place at that very point in time so that I could give her something that she needed.  It was a brief moment in time where, because of a dead battery, my course veered.  And to do what I did for her was something that I needed, too.

When I got home, I read the days’ Oswald Chambers writing.  It was a powerful and timely reminder of how we are to treat these types of moments, and of how God expects us to live our lives. 


By Oswald Chambers in “My Utmost For His Highest”

Be instant in season, out of season.” 2 Timothy 4:2

Many of us suffer from the morbid tendency to be instant “out of season.” The season does not refer to time, but to us – ‘Be instant in season, out of season,” whether we feel like it or not. If we do only what we feel inclined to do, some of us would do nothing for ever and ever. There are unemployables in the spiritual domain, spiritually decrepit people, who refuse to do anything unless they are supernaturally inspired. The proof that we are rightly related to God is that we do our best whether we feel inspired or not.

One of the great snares of the Christian worker is to make a fetish of his rare moments. When the Spirit of God gives you a time of inspiration and insight, you say – “Now I will always be like this for God.” No, you will not, God will take care you are not. Those times are the gift of God entirely. You cannot give them to yourself when you choose. If you say you will only be at your best, you become an intolerable drag on God; you will never do anything unless God keeps you consciously inspired. If you make a god of your best moments, you will find that God will fade out of your life and never come back until you do the duty that lies nearest, and have learned not to make a fetish of your rare moments.


Girls Behaving Baldly

Leave poor Britney alone, wouldja?  So she shaved her head.  Big deal.  Hair grows back.  Let the poor girl have her crisis.  But maybe her hairless-style isn’t a symptom of crisis.  Maybe she’s always wanted to try it.  Ever think of that?

Bald Britney.  Still uber cute if you want my opinion!

When I was in high school I longed to do just the same thing, but I had long and very beautiful blond hair AND a big problem with shyness and these two things added up to wimping out.  I never got up the nerve to do anything at all with my hair except for cutting a few wispy bangs as a junior, and that took every bit of my courage since I knew the change would be noticed, and I hated being noticed. 

My sister-in-law, Connie, DID have the nerve.   She expressed herself often through her many hair styles and colors.  And I thought she looked AMAZING without any hair.  Her son, Richard, was very young at the time she chose baldness, and I will say, he was upset that his mother no longer had “girl hair”, and he cried.  That was both very cute and very heart-wrenching at the same time.

Connie, not quite bald (her hair was growing back in), but fabulous.

Some time ago I was watching the DVD of Connie’s memorial with some friends.  A picture flashed up of Connie when she had been bald.  One of the viewers was visibly horrified.  He declared in a disbelieving tone “And your brother LET her do THAT?”  I think I probably snorted when he said that.  Let her???  He didn’t know Connie!  And he didn’t know how much Phil enjoyed and encouraged the quirkiness and individuality of his wife.  The truth of the matter was, that it was Phil (who “let” Connie just be Connie) who was the one who did the actual deed this time!  He was the one with the clippers and razor in his hand!  And he will tell you that this was one of his favorite looks on her. 

For Connie’s memorial service, her cousin Katie shaved her head.  I wanted to, but again, I lacked the nerve.

One of these days I’m going to do it.  (It’s on the “List of Fifty”, you know!  I actually only wrote “get a radical new look”.  I cut my hair very short and died it a dark maroon back in the late 90’s and checked that one off the list, but in my heart, when I wrote “radical new look”, I meant bald.  But I wasn’t even brave enough to WRITE it then, let alone brave enough to DO it yet!)

Almost There…Going Back

(A year seems like a really long time.)  Six months ago I returned from Zambia.  I can hardly believe that so much time has passed so quickly.  My brain is still so very full from that experience.  I have so many things yet to process and share about the time I spent there.  And now, it appears that I will be going back.  In a year.  Perhaps not so long afterall.

(This is a picture of the little TV in the back of the seat in front of me that I took when we were just minutes from landing in Lusaka, Zambia, this past summer.  Look at the names of the cities…Mumbai, Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Athens, Islamabad, Lisbon, Milan, Beirut, Athens…a whole world of places I have now only flown over, and can hope someday to see.  And then there’s Lusaka…Zambia…)

There are places I’ve been to that I never care to go to again.  Like Pittsburg, Florida, or (pick any) Mexican border town.  And then there are places that I dream of returning to.  Like Papua New Guinea, Ireland, and Zambia. 

And it looks like I’ll have the opportunity to go back to Zambia.  What a thought.  Connie’s friends and family, and some people she never even got to meet, have donated nearly $20,000 thus far towards “Connie’s Heart“.  “Connie’s Heart” is the name of the orphan rescue unit that is dedicated to her memory.  Just a few days ago, we heard that the rescue unit has been built, and is up.  There is enough money for a well, a grainery, and a church, with plenty “left over”.  There is money for ongoing support of the unit and, if we (her family) so choose, we could possibly even build a school!  This would be the first rescue unit school.  How fitting, since Connie was a teacher herself…

We have the opportunity as a family to put together a team of adults (and they’ll even let us bring the kids) to come to Zambia to work at “Connie’s Heart” next February or March.  While there, we would be able to officially dedicate the unit.  I doubt we’ll have a hard time finding 12 people who want to go.  I imagine limiting it to just 12 will be the hardest part.  Imagine, my family and friends, in a very remote region in the bush in Zambia, all working at “Connie’s Heart”.  I have thought of little else since getting the word a few days ago. 

This is Simon.  He was the facilitator at the “Elizabeth Light of Hope” orphan rescue unit in Chiwala, Zambia.  He will be the facilitator of “Connie’s Heart”.  I had the pleasure of working with him when I was in Chiwala with Teen Missions this past summer.  He’s an incredible young man.  If they would have let me choose who I’d like to run “Connie’s Heart”, it would have been Simon.  He will be partnered with a young man named Wilson.  (I wonder if Simon even knows that the Connie of “Connie’s Heart” was Mama Lou’s best friend and sister-in-law.)  Simon himself was left orphaned by AIDS.  He was left to raise a large number of younger siblings with just the help of an elderly grandmother when he was only a teenager himself.  That Simon not only survived, but thrived, and is touching the lives of hundreds of other orphans now is a testament to the saving power of Jesus Christ.  I can hardly wait to see Simon again.

Here are portions of a letter my sister Diane received from Teen Missions/AOSC (AIDS Orphans and Street Children) about “Connie’s Heart”

“I am excited that I have news on Connie’s Heart – the unit is up!!!  
The village is called Funda, and I am going to copy you the  
information that I have from Doug’s last two e-mails so that you have  
some good information for your donors.

“Funda is about 30-40K’s west of Katembula (where our first Matron’s  
unit is located), south of the Kasempa road.  Simon Katima and Wilson  
Muke will be the facilitators.  They have not yet started registering  
orphans as the work crew has just completed the unit.  Oscar has said  
that the unit has great potential both in terms of the numbers of  
orphans and various developments that could happen there.  Oscar has  
requested these facilitators for this unit because they are both very  
dedicated, called and hard workers.  He believes they will be able to  
bring into being what is possible for this unit.  It is remote.  This  
location is where the late chief, Chief Shimkunami said with her last  
breath should be given to Teen Missions.  The people have been  
patient waiting for Teen Missions to come and are now very excited  
seeing the unit up.  There is no public transportation on the Funda  
road – the facilitators have to travel 33 k’s (20 miles) to get to  
any transportation.  People in that area walk those distances if they  
have to get out.”  Right now Joseph is staying at the unit until  
Simon returns from helping to put up some of the other new units.

Hope this will help you.  It sounds like a wonderful place, but  
transportation is very difficult in rainy season.  Kathy has asked me  
to have you send an e-mail or a letter to Mr. Bland regarding your  
desire to send a team over next year indicating the potential numbers  
and the dates that would be possible for the group.  He will also be  
interested in knowing how many young children will be going.

Hope you had a great time with your brother.  We continue to have  
funds coming in for Connie’s Heart – at least a couple of donations a  
week.  It is so encouraging, and maybe you will want to hear some of  
the other things that Doug and Oscar envision for the unit before you  
decide if you want a second unit.  I know some of the areas out there  
are in need of adequate schools – I do not know if this is one of them.

God bless you, and thank you and your family and friends for all they  
are doing.”

I will share information with you as it comes in.  Truly, God is turning ashes into beauty.



There is a special place in God’s heart for orphans…

  • “In you the fatherless find mercy.” (Hosea 14:4)
  • “You are the helpers of the fatherless.” (Psalm 10:14)
  • “It is not the will of your Father that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:14)
  • “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” (James 1:27)
  • “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16)
  • “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18)
  • “Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:5)
  • “And Jesus took the children in his arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10:16)
  • “Remember those…who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3)
  • “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us…let us not love with word or tongue, but with action and in truth.” (I John 3:16-18)
  • “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” (Matthew 25:35)
  • “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…defend the rights of the needy.” (Proverbs 31:8,9)
  • “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 22:16)

  • “Okay! You can call 911 now.” or “Happy Birthday, Donna!”

    I am sorry, Donna, but the story must be told!  Did you read “26 Miles Across the Deep Blue Sea”?  Well if you haven’t, you may want to go (click here for THAT post) and read it, then come back here.

    A couple of years ago I got a call from my friend Donna, who reported to me that if felt like her heart was racing and she wanted to know what should she do.  Well, after a quick lesson on pulse checking, we discovered that her heart wasn’t only racing, it was qualifying.  I asked her a few questions and found out that she’d just started taking a new weight loss supplement, one that contained ephedra.  Chances were Donna was in what is called “supraventricular tachycardia” or “SVT”.  Not generally dangerous when triggered by ephedra, it is easily treated with a quick call to 911 and a follow-up visit in the ER.  Paramedics carry the intravenous medication that “knocks out” the irregular heart rhythm so that the normal “pacemaker” of the heart can start to be in control again.  Anyway, she of course refused to call 911 and refused to go the emergency room and wanted to know what other options she had.  “Well, there’s vagal maneuvers” I told her, but you need to have somebody there with you in case you pass out and don’t wake up immediately.  She assured me that the “girls” (her daughters) were there.  So we vagaled.  And her heart rate dropoped from the 170’s down to the 120’s.  I told her to drink lots of fluids, stay in bed, avoid all stimulants, and call 911 if she developed chest pain, shortness of breath, anything like that.   She was zonked for days, but she recovered without further incident.

    And then comes my birthday in June of last 2005.  Hopefully you have gone back and read like I told you to.  One of the things I have wanted to do for decades, is to spend the night on the Queen Mary in Long Beach.  And that’s where my birthday party started.  We (Diane, Connie, Lizzie, Whitney, Donna, and I) checked in and had a wonderful evening of wine and food.  Perhaps we drank too much, perhaps we had a little too much coffee before bed, but in the morning, while taking a shower, Donna’s tachycardia came back.  I had her lay on the bed, drink a bunch of glasses of water, and do a couple of vagal maneuvers.  Her heart rate slowed from the 180’s to the 120’s and she began to feel better.  But every time she’d exert herself (and by exert, I mean MOVE), it would kick back into high gear.

    After a bit of a rest and more fluids, she decided she wanted to try to meet the rest of the girls for breakfast.  We only sort of made it there, and sat down, but then had to go back to our room.  And this time I couldn’t get her heart to slow down at all.  I told Donna, who was starting to look panicked around the edges, “Just let me call 911.  They’ll make you better in a jiff, we can spend a couple of hours in the ER, and then be on our way”.  But she was adamant that she wanted to gut it out and not be a problem.  But she couldn’t sit up.  After a couple more encouragements to let me call 911, I finally sat back and told her, “you just tell me when you are ready to call them, okay?”

    And at about noon, she finally acquiesced, because now she was having chest pain.  She looked up at me, and said “Okay, you can call 911 now.”  Finally!  🙂  I called the front desk and informed them of the situation, and they took care of calling 911.  The poor girl that answered the phone tried to give me advice on what to do.  She sounded like she was going to cry!  “Don’t worry”, I told her.  “I’m an ER nurse.  I know what to do.”  She heaved a sigh of relief and expressed “good, cuz I sure don’t”. 

    As it turns out, the paramedics were already on there way for a woman who fell and injured her ankle.  But life wins over limb, and we got that ambulance crew about 1 minute after calling 911.  And in about 30 seconds, my hotel room was filled with boys in blue woolens and yellow turnouts.  It was like Christmas!  I gave the lead medic the history and told him I thought she was in SVT.  We hooked her up to an heart monitor, and she was. 

    Now, because she was not only in SVT but was having chest pain, they had to contact the base for orders.  Only thing was, cell phones didn’t work in the hull of that ship.  I wish one of us would have had the foresight to have our camera out so that we would have had a picture of the paramedic hanging out the porthole talking on the cell phone!

    Frustration of all frustrations, though Donna has amazing veins, the medics couldn’t get an IV started.  Do you know how badly I wanted to jump in and do it for them????  (Here’s the aftermath…)

     Donnas IV Bruises.JPG

    Eventually they got the IV in and it took two rounds of the medication, but her heart converted to a normal rhythm.  It was pretty cool, because my little sister, Liz, was in her last year of nursing school and was able see all this stuff first hand! 

    And, when we finally got off the Queen Mary, we had transportation awaiting…

    Everyone Elses Ride.jpg 

    A limo for Diane, Connie, Lizzie, and Whitney…

    Donnas and My Ride.jpg 

    And an ambulance for Donna and me!

    Sisters Liz and Diane, and Donna, in Catalina

    Despite its questionable beginning, it turned out to be an amazing trip.  We had a wonderful time together.  One I’ll never forget.  Today is Donna’s birthday.  Happy Birthday!  I miss you.  Wish I could be celebrating with you today!

    Mamma Mia!

    The first time I saw “Mamma Mia!” was in Chicago.  That was years ago.  Mamma Mia! was still a new phenomenon back then.  And it was GREAT.  I had always wanted to take Connie to see it, but it never worked out.  My sister Diane gave me four tickets for my birthday to see it here in Colorado Springs.  I know Colorado Springs is a little bit podunk as far as towns go, but we do get some culture here!  The four tickets went to me, Diane, my cousin Julie, and my friend Joanne.


    We went to a wonderful Irish Pub call Jack Quinn’s for dinner beforehand.  Had black and tans (Guinness and Smithwick’s) and fish and chips.  Slainte! 

    You can’t help but feel good listening to all that ABBA music.  You just can’t.

    And when we got to the parking structure, there was quite a traffic jam.  My car was well-positioned to go down the upramp backwards, which we did, and we were out of the parking lot lickety split.

    What a fun night!

    Thanks Diane for the wonderful gift!  Let’s do “Jesus Christ, Superstar” next, shall we?

    Way To Go, Bro!

    Today my little brother Lawrence (aka Low) is celebrating his graduation from Vanguard University of Southern California (it used to be called Southern California College) in Costa Mesa.  Like all the good children in my family who needed (because a specific career choice made it necessary) to attend college, he went on the multi-school/many-year plan.  I think I held the record of most schools most years for some time (three schools, seven years), but Lawrence has now blown my record out of the water.  Vanguard is his fourth school, and his graduation has been fourteen years in the making! 

    Sadly, I have no “real” pictures of Lawrence that are in a blog-friendly format (they’re all paper pictures).  So I found this picture.  I had to crop him out of a group photo.  He’s really not a menacing creature!  REALLY!  But I can see I need to get some new digital pictures!

    Lawrence is graduating with a degree in Christian ministry and plans on becoming a pastor.  He is currently working as the Volunteer Coordinator for Mariner’s Church.  Of course, I hope that when he comes to Colorado for Christmas that he’ll find a job here and stay! 

    In addition to this celebration, my family will be remembering Connie, who would have been 41 years old today.


    So yesterday I decided it was time to go geocaching.  I’m not going to get into what geocaching is.  It’s after midnight and I’m tired.  Maybe later.  I first learned about geocaching from my sister-in-law, Connie.  I went with her on a few finds.  I knew that she’d reached the hundred finds mark before she died.  Anytime she went anywhere, she’d look up any caches that were nearby that she might be able to work into that errand or trip. 

    I found my first cache today, and I looked for but couldn’t find two more (yet).  I thought about her (Connie) some while I was out.  I was thinking she probably laugh to know that I was doing this.  I had bought her a GPS device to assist her in her endeavors.  I don’t own a GPS, but I know a guy who geocaches using maps and satellite views that are provided on the website  I decided to go ahead and try it that way. 

    I wondered if Connie had used the website.  I decided to search for her there.  I used my best guess as to what her geocaching name would be, entered it, and, there she was.  I had to catch my breath.  She logged 116 cache finds, plus 9 travel bug dog tags were located and moved.  Not a bad job for two years.  Not a bad job for a woman who had more on her to do list every day then most people have on theirs in a month. 

    The last three finds that she logged were ones that I was with her for.  We found them on a trip to Catalina Island in celebration of my 40th birthday.  That was just a month before she died.  I will probably be up all night looking up her finds to see what she wrote about them.  And I’ll probably be up all night crying, too.  I am profoundly sad, again, at the loss of her.  I feel lost without her tonight.

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