Wednesday, April 28, 2010


For lack of a better word, etcetera seems to sum up my excuse for not sleeping well all week. Etcetera has either kept me up way past my bedtime, or else awakened me way too early in the morning for a solid stinking week.

Aside from a local missionary ladies retreat I’m helping to organize for this coming weekend and a garage sale to finally get rid of the junk I cleared out of closets and storage back in January, really not much is happening. Oh, and planning an unexpected trip to California for the summer. Ha! Like an hour goes by without that invading my thoughts.

Beyond all that, it’s the etcetera that is keeping me awake at night. Too much is on my mind. My ddil’s college graduation I missed on Saturday, a dear friend’s recent miscarriage the first week of furlough-not-a-vacation, a son’s birthday today a thousand miles away, and even vain petty thoughts like who is going to cut my hair in California for an affordable price so I can look decent for another son’s Wisconsin wedding in July, and will I succeed in dropping a few extra pounds before then?

As if all that weren’t enough to disturb sleep, this is the hottest month of the year in southern Mexico, which means open windows at night to draw in the cool mountain breeze. It also means dogs barking and extra noise all night long. To top it off, a neighbor just put up a huge striped tarp (picture a revival tent) across the dirt road from us. That means only one thing: PARTY. Maybe it’s the same in your country. Party in the neighborhood means bad music blaring all night long from enormous speakers, vibrating our adobe house right to the foundation. Another excuse for not sleeping. Yawn.

I sure hope the upcoming retreat allows me to relax and catch up on some sleep. At the same time I hope my snoring doesn’t disturb my roommates’ sleep too much. Etc.

By the way, thanks so much for those potty stories from last week. Even though they did nothing to help induce sleep, they did provide the laughs that I was seeking! I love the comments! Keep ‘em coming.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Potty Humor

In light of what I shared last week, you can appreciate why more than ever I need a good laugh. Is there anyone who doesn’t? “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine….”

Please forgive me for shifting gears now and resorting to potty humor. Yes, you read that right. Potty humor. Don’t tell me you haven’t had your share of laughs regarding the diverse and interesting bathroom facilities in the country where you serve. In fact,IRL I am counting on you to regale us with some stories in the comment section.

One memorable funny of mine dates back to my first overseas assignment as a young single woman in Thailand. My mother and grandmother came to visit, and I attempted to demonstrate the squatty potty technique to them. What made it impossible for Nana was that she refused to dispense with the control top pantyhose. (I want to say girdle, too, but my mom is out of town and I can’t verify this fact before being guilty of exaggerating again!) Besides that, her American feet were too big to fit in the stall once the door was shut, forcing her to perch on top of the potty to yank her undergarments back up.

Now that I am more “mature” (downright old depending on your vantage point), I pity both my mom and Nana with their shaky leg muscles trying to balance themselves on a moving train, using a non-western WC. And to think I laughed. I should be ashamed. Bless their hearts! (snicker)

Another incident on that same visit happened at my host family’s house. Nana’s southern sensibilities could not comprehend why the bathrooms were not stocked with toilet paper. Instead they only had a bucket of water with a scooper. When it was time for supper the first night, I was mortified to hear her loudly proclaim in her east Texas accent, “Well, say, HERE’S the toilet paper!” and to see her pick it up off the dining room table and haul it to the wash room.

I don’t know which was more embarrassing, explaining the bucket of water to my grandmother in Thailand, or explaining the purpose of a bidet to my preschool boys in Guatemala. Of course, being the prude I am, I told them it was a foot washer. Later they discovered a box of big white poofy “stickers” under the sink, which they used to make a mural across the bathroom wall. Talk about an expensive art project… but I digress.

Here in Mexico we live in a desert, so our house is outfitted with an “ecological” or “composting” toilet to preserve water. I can’t imagine what my prim and proper grandmother would have thought about having an outhouse INSIDE the house, but hey, at least we have toilet paper! (And a toilet seat, too, I might boast.)

Others are not so fortunate, as you can see by these photos of other Mexican commodes.

Now it’s your turn. Do tell.

IRL*the photo says it all.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

When Life Gets Un-Fun

When Life Gets Un-fun…

...even then, God provides joy and blessings. Once again our family is in a season of abrupt change. Although I am sad for the events which led to our needing to be in the States this summer, I am secretly delighted to be in a position to have to trust Him again more fully.

Does that make sense?

In the early years, every day was a challenge and every decision required divine guidance. After all these years, somehow the early thrills wore off. The stress levels decreased. And all became familiar, almost mundane, as I have implied before. Our monthly support settled into a predictable and comfortable pattern. Even our brief summer trips to the States became routine.

Then suddenly some neighbors received threats to their lives and were evacuated from the field. That event was followed by other frightening rumors and dangers, which drastically altered our little Mayberry-ish existence. Now we lock our doors at night, keep gates locked during the day, and train our kids to be more watchful.

In the midst of many discussions with our children about safety precautions and awareness, one of our three youngest still living at home, came to me about something that had happened in the past that was still interrupting sleep.

Consequently, our whole world got turned upside down.

We began making preparations to spend three months in California for some counseling and emotional support for this child. In spite of a whole range of emotions that have crept to the surface after learning of my child’s wound, deep down I am still my mother’s daughter, and as such, a Pollyanna-wannabe. This little alter-ego of mine has seen me through many difficult chapters of my life. Even now I am journaling how glad I am to spend this summer with my two college kids, how glad I am this evil world is not my home, how glad I am….

You get the idea.

My question for you is what do you do when it doesn’t seem enough to simply focus on the bright side, declaring, “Let’s play the Glad Game”? Where do you go for comfort when life gets Un-Fun like mine? When your heart is breaking? When you are reminded that following Christ does not guarantee your children’s safety? What do you do?

IRL*Asking questions. Trusting more fully...again.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Furlough Does Not Equal Vacation

“Welcome home!” and “Enjoy your vacation!” are two of the most predictable statements we hear when we return to our passport country for a furlough. Wouldn’t you agree? Both represent a misunderstanding on the part of the well-intentioned speaker. Those of us with kids cringe when we see their reaction to the first quote in particular. That’s a separate issue in itself, just managing our unruly kids on display for months on end when they just want to go “home!”

At the online home school support forum I frequent, this question recently cropped up: how do you communicate to people that the word furlough is not synonymous with vacation? A lively discussion followed, which I would like to continue here, with Hayes Zookeeper’s permission—since she is both a WOTH reader, an IRL friend who lives down the road from me, and also the one who posed the question on the other board.

One woman suggested not using the term “furlough” at all, which in the military does imply a time of vacation. Another friend suggested calling it a business trip. Then she gave a sample blurb from an imaginary prayer letter:

Imagine going on a business trip to meet with all your most important clients—the ones who pay your daily bills—making progress reports, R&D (research and development) reports, etc, and doing new client development... with the entire family in tow... for 4 months straight... over 4000 miles.... logged in a car, not on upgrade flights.... and your wife is pregnant for the duration.

Mind you, she is referring to the Zookeeper being pregnant, not me. (The last time I had a premenopausal “scare” of that nature, I had to dig out reading glasses to see how many stripes were on the test. I figure at that point, I’m probably too old!)

Anyway, I digress. Back to the question. I figure this worldwide community of Women of the Harvest would have the answer to this dilemma. What do you say? How do you communicate to friends and supporters the grim stress-filled reality of what furloughs actually are?

I’ll look forward to your comments on this one. Extra points will be given for humorous, uplifting wording. Oh, yeah, this isn’t a contest. But…

Maybe WOTH can use some of your responses to encourage folks to sponsor some poor weary soul to attend the Furlough Retreat this summer.

IRL*What IS the answer to the equation: Furlough = __?__


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