Hi everyone! I’m your guest blogger for this week, Megan Bockelman. As you may recall, I wrote for the blog once before about a mission trip I went on with our church. This summer however, as our church youth group went to Ponce, Puerto Rico I was spending my time in West Virginia at the 24th World Scout Jamboree. Before you ask, no I haven’t joined Scouts BSA (as many girls did starting last February), but rather I am in a Venture Crew. Crews are part of Scouts BSA and is co-ed for ages 14-25. Where scouts focuses on general survival skills and later leadership, Venturing mainly focuses on high adventure and leadership for all four of our ranks. Being in the crew was also what allowed me to be on staff at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree (also at the same place in West Virginia), as well as go to the Summit Bechtel Reserve in 2018 for Venture Fest. So, by the time I was making the 6 hour trek to the Summit just a few weeks ago, you could say I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. As in 2017, I was staff for the event IST (International Service Team) and was a member of the Band, which is part of Program staff. Hence, I was allowed backstage access and worked pretty closely with many other adult professional staff in charge of putting on the amazing stadium shows as well as base camp bashes. In total, there are around 10,000 staff members (18 and older) as well as 40,000 participants (ages 13-18). These scouts come from all over the world. At the Jamboree, there were more than 150 countries represented by participants and staff! And the whole event was co-hosted by the US, Mexico, & Canada. Therefore, all main information sent out to any staff or participants was sent in English, French, and Spanish. There were also many translators for various languages on staff. Personally, I am mostly fluent in Spanish, and was able to converse with a few different groups of people over the event. In total, I was at the Summit for 15 days straight, staying in a tent (with three other women) and using buses to get to and from my usual work spot- Summit Center (which is about a 45 minute to hour walk if the busses weren’t running!) Since the band has many performances, a lot of days we were told to report in the morning for a rehearsal (anywhere from 1 hour to about 4 hours long) followed by either a lunch break and another several hour rehearsal, or a few hours off before our evening performance(or performances!). By the end of the Jamboree, we had played for a vast majority of the scouts present, our biggest performance being on the top of the Consol Energy Bridge as thousands of scouts walked underneath us to get to one of the main stadium shows. Throughout the trip, I enjoyed making many wonderful friends from many different countries. I was also able to spend hours per day playing clarinet (one of my favorite past times!) for very enthusiastic crowds of people! Overall it was a fantastic experience that I will remember forever- just as I still have fond memories of the 2017 National Scout Jamboree!
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead
Last July, I shared about our church's Youth Mission Trip to Blue Knob, PA. (7/23/18-Youth Ignite) The following week, Megan posted her experiences on that trip. (7/30/18-Guest Blogger-2018 Mission Trip) This year 15 youth and 9 adults flew to Puerto Rico for the 2019 Youth Ignite Mission Trip (7/21/19-7/27/19), through TEAMeffort. They worked in Ponce, named for Juan Ponce de Leon y Loayza, a great grandson of Spanish conquistador, Juan Ponce de Leon.
The team reported that there's still devastation in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria in 2017. Many homes and buildings remain untouched since the hurricane. Shells of buildings stand as a sad reminder. Also, political demonstrations occurred during the week, however they were peaceful and no one ever felt nervous or scared. One team member said it was like a parade without candy.
While there, the team built fences around homes, constructed covered structures for multiple uses, painted fences around a church and classrooms in a school. At the end of their last work day, they held a picnic in a park, served food to locals, and organized games with children. Through their work and service, they made connections, built relationships, and shared their faith. This small group helped change lives. They blessed folks and received blessings by doing. Their experiences and memories will last a lifetime.
The team's days were long and filled with hard work. Their sleeping arrangements were nothing like home. And their showers were often cold. One of the adult leaders shared, "They never complained or whined."
But it wasn't all work. Each evening they gathered with other youth on a TEAMeffort mission trip for chapel filled with music, games, as well as worship. They had sightseeing excursions, swam in the ocean, and shopped. All of them were particularly impressed with a boat ride on their last evening to a bioluminescent bay where they swam and experienced the marvel of a blue glow as they moved in the water. Awesome! Their energy and enthusiasm as they shared about the trip was infectious.
PS- Megan did not go on this mission trip as she spent two weeks in West Virginia, where about 45,000 gathered, for the World Scout Jamboree. She was part of the international jamboree band. Maybe I can get her to share about that. Stay tuned!
"What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness."
Here in Ohio, our four seasons each have pros and cons. All things considered, summer always ranks number one with me. I'd rather be warm than freezing. Don't get me wrong, in summer I do appreciate cold iced tea, lemonade, water, and ice cream. And I'm quite grateful for air conditioning!
Several days ago my hubby pointed out HOT weather warnings, a week in advance, for the weekend of July 19-21, 2019. A weather app on my phone warned of "excessive heat." Meteorologists now report many days ahead of high eighty and ninety degree temperatures, with triple digit heat indexes. This made me think of my childhood summers. Back in the "olden days" we didn't seem to know much about the weather and temperatures until the day arrived, or maybe the day before. We knew it was summer and it was supposed to be hot! Back then we did not have AC. We did not have a pool. But we did have a sprinkler and a hose. Sometimes when Dad got home from work, we'd head to a lake to cool down and a picnic supper. Oh, and let's not forget the multiple window fans that kept the hot air moving in the house. And that's what we knew.
Then our community built a pool sometime around the 60's. Definitely a popular summer hot spot. We took morning swimming lessons. And if we were lucky, Mom would take us back to the Brooklyn (Ohio) pool in the afternoon.
As we got older, we rode our bikes or walked to the pool, on our own. Then came the time when we were too "cool" to swim at the pool. But going to the pool area and park, hanging out with our friends, and walking to the Golden Point for junk food were the things to do, no matter how hot it was outside. Funny now, huh?
So, during these hot summer days, let's put memories of the heat in our mental pockets. Then next winter during a "Polar Vortex," sub-freezing temperatures, and wind chills, we'll have thoughts of this summer to keep us warm!
"Time flies when you are having fun or not." ~Mary Engelbreit
It's hard to believe so many weeks have passed since my last blog post. But "Life happens," and sometimes "Life gets in the way." Each week I'd hoped to write something. Ideas came, but clearly that's as far as I got. I wish I could say I've been on hiatus doing fun things, but not so. My time has involved Physical Therapy appointments, my own PT at home, Doctor appointments, and just moving slow adjusting through the healing process with my new knee. I've come a long way, but I have a way to go. I can't count how many times I've heard "It takes time," and "Everybody's different." My Orthopedic surgeon tells me I'm doing great, and reminds me that it may take a year. I tell myself he points that out so I won't get discouraged, and anything less than a year will be a bonus for me! I realize I may be rationalizing.
But things are looking up! Last Monday, after missing several months, I met with one of my writing critique groups with a new children's devotional manuscript in hand. Since then I've worked on revising, planning to submit it by the end of June. That very same day, I had an invitation to revise and resubmit a two part devotional I submitted at the end of February. Of course, I accepted.
During the time I've been blog incommunicado, I have brainstormed a list of potential devotional topics for future projects. So, there has been some progress, even though it's been relatively slow. I keep thinking about the saying on a t-shirt my daughter brought my husband from a North Carolina island vacation many years ago. It says, "I'm on turtle time!" That's kind of been my mantra over these last many months. I'm doing what I can, slow and steady.
It's good to be back!
"One day at a time, one step at a time." ~Lynda Boucher
Three weeks ago today, I got a new right knee. I've had three weeks of healing, recovery, and therapy. My Orthopedic surgeon, along with my sister and several friends who've been down this road, told me the first few weeks would not be a lot of fun, but it does get better. I've kept my sights on their promises.
A few hours after surgery and recovery, I was up and walking in a hospital gown. Using a walker, flanked by two Physical Therapy staff people, and my husband right behind protecting my modesty, it was one step at a time. The PT staff impressed that getting up and moving is key to recovery. So I took another hallway stroll before bed when a nurse was available to walk with me.
The next day, I was awakened dark and early at 5:30. I dressed myself and prepared for the day. My surgeon arrived by 7:15. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I'd be discharged later. More vitals, more blood draws, and then finally breakfast. Physical Therapy was scheduled for 9:00am. After my husband/coach arrived by 8:15, a Physical Therapist had me grab the walker for another stroll. We went to the PT room to learn how to do stairs and get into a car. Then back to my room until the other patients' coaches arrived for our group therapy session.
Nurses, a Nurse Navigator, a Home Health Care representative, lunch, instructions, etc., and we were finally able to leave. The wheelchair ride to the car was uneventful. The transition to the car was more challenging than the simulation in the PT room. The ride to our pharmacy and the drive home was uncomfortable to say the least. I learned later that's normal.
I've had in-home Physical Therapy, along with visits from Home Health Care RNs. This week I begin out-patient Physical Therapy. I was cleared to do stairs alone last week. Such a feeling of liberation!
Everyone was right. It does get better. And I'm anticipating a lot better!
"We remember their LOVE when they can no longer remember." ~Unknown
An internet search for "Alzheimer Quotes" showed 17,600,000 results in less than one second. Wow!
An Alzheimer diagnosis casts a wide net from the patient, no matter what the situation. It also presents a myriad of decisions that increase as the disease progresses. Having been down this road with my mom, I know what it's like to watch someone you love on that insidious journey.
The other day, one of my dearest friends, who is like a sister, said she made the hardest decision of her life. She's been caring for her precious husband at home watching him decline bit by bit. Even with Hospice home care, he reached the point where he needed more care than one person can do 24/7. The angels of hospice along with her own RN granddaughter's knowledge, experience, and wisdom helped her realize the reality. He moved on Saturday to where he could get the care he needs. My dear friend said it was the "worst day of my life." She knows he will be well cared for as he's where their granddaughter works. But there is still such a sense of loss.
Beyond my friend and her sweet husband, their net casts to their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and the multitude of friends and folks whose lives they've touched in some way. I know my heart hurts, and my eyes get damp often.
At the end of February, their second grade twin great-granddaughters' school had a "Super Hero Day." On their own the girls asked to wear their Alzheimer's shirts. (They've participated in Alzheimer's Walks.) One said her "super hero is Papa because he is fighting the disease." The other said her "super hero is Grandma for taking care of him." Out of the mouths of babes!
In the many great quotes I read I'm sending this one by Leeza Gibbons to my dear friend, LRA:
"Alzheimer's caregivers are heroes."
"This room will be jumping in an hour." ~Dean Kappas, Night to Shine volunteer
Friday, February 8, 2019 was Night to Shine. It's the second time our church hosted the prom. Clearly, it's not our last. Our pastor said in a newspaper interview, "It's the most encouraging ministry we do all year. I think the helpers get more out of it than the guests." He explained, "'Night to Shine' is a celebration for people with special needs ages 14 and older that is held simultaneously at churches all over the world. This event is in its fifth year."
This year 655 churches in 20 countries hosted Night to Shine with 200,000 volunteers for about 100,000 guests. Tim Tebow started this ministry in 2015. Then 44 churches and 15,000 volunteers hosted 7,000 guests. That's impressive growth.
Our church welcomed about 80 guests for an evening of pampering and a limo ride to the red carpet before dinner and dancing. About half attended last year. Guests get paired with a volunteer "buddy" for the evening's events. A few buddies requested to be matched with who they had last year. As guests began arriving, I witnessed one of those re-matches, and it was quite a reunion. The two gals were so excited to see each other again. It's actually hard to know who was more excited. They carried on like a couple of lifelong friends who hadn't seen each other for a long time. I smiled and felt their contagious joy! And word is they want to reunite at Night to Shine 2020.
Night to Shine impacts everyone involved - Guests, Caregivers, and Volunteers. After the 2016 prom, Tim Tebow received a letter from a mom whose daughter attended Night to Shine. She said her heart's desire is that her girl won't be forgotten. She wrote, "At Night to Shine, God whispered to me, 'I will never ever forget her. She is famous to me like an A-lister walking the red carpet...She is precious and she is mine.' How extravagant is the love of God for us."
And there you have it...just a few of the multitudes of blessings from Night to Shine proms.
"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." ~Richard Bach
What is a writer? Writers write! There - that's simple enough! So, I have been a writer for as long as I can recall. It's something I've always enjoyed, but for a long time I would have never thought to identify myself as a "writer." That word was reserved for the famous writers, the authors.
Somewhere along the way at one of the first children's writers' conferences I attended, a presenter encouraged us to say, "I am a writer." I could say it to myself, but couldn't say it to other people outside that venue. I did write it on a piece of paper and propped it up on my writing table. First step in my process.
I wrote. I studied about writing. I read. I wrote. I took writing classes. I wrote. I studied the markets. I read. I joined critique groups. I wrote. I submitted manuscripts. I wrote. I accumulated rejections. I got discouraged. I wrote. I read. I got excited. I wrote...and the process continues like a never ending cycle.
In June, 2017, I started submitting children's devotional pieces to Keys for Kids. I set a goal to submit one each month. Early in January, 2018, they requested revisions on two. I was thrilled! A couple weeks later another email came saying they wanted to accept and purchase another devotional I'd submitted. I will admit I was so excited that my eyes leaked! Now, in my mind, I could say out loud, "I am a writer." Published and paid! That first acceptance appeared in August, 2018, a little more than a year after I submitted it. What a thrill to see my work in print...published!
Today on Keys for Kids (www.keysforkids.org) you can read and/or listen to my devotional piece "Questions, Questions, Questions." I hope you enjoy it. So far, seven have been accepted. This is the third to appear in print and on their website. And I have more ideas for future pieces.
"Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one." ~Brad Paisley
Approaching the end of 2018, I was amused the other day reading about yet another day to commemorate. Friday, December 28, 2018 was "Good Riddance Day." I don't really recollect hearing of that one before, but according to what I read on www.shred-it.com, it was the 12th Annual Good Riddance Day. The purpose is to help folks destroy "any unpleasant, embarrassing, and downright unwanted memories from the past year." In Times Square in NYC, Shred-It provided a large shredder where people wrote down what they wanted to forget about or get rid of, and it was shredded and permanently destroyed. People not in NYC could submit via Twitter and Instagram, and these would be shredded for them. Interesting concept.
Actually, the whole idea has roots in Latin American tradition. On New Year's Eve, revelers put artifacts and bad memories into dolls that are set on fire in the streets. It's called "Burning the Muneco." Many burning dolls created hazards on the streets and in the air from all the smoke and fire. For environmental and health concerns, the practice is now discouraged or prohibited.
I think New Year's Resolutions help people bid good-bye and look forward to improvements in the year ahead. Written or mental, the bottom line is hope for the future. Of course, none of us really has any insight to what the future will actually hold. We can make our plans, but there are many things we just don't know or have any control. But we always have hope! And we can do our best with what comes our way.
So as midnight approaches, and we leave 2018 behind, my hope for you is a happy and healthy 2019!
"Black Friday is not another bad hair day in Wall Street. It's the term used by American retailers to describe the day after the Thanksgiving Holiday, seen as the semi-official start of Christmas shopping season." ~Evan Davis, English economist and journalist
Early last December I shared some personal thoughts about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (12/4/17 - Post-Thanksgiving Ponderings) You may remember I do not do Black Friday! But I have become increasingly conscious of all the terms that seem to have grown around the Christmas shopping season.
Yesterday I noticed many emails announcing "Green Monday" deals from several retailers. Green Monday? What's that? So I did a search. In 2007, eBay coined it. I never noticed it before. It's described as the best sales day in December, usually the second Monday of December.
So I made a list of all the hype terms I knew, or recently discovered:
Black Friday - which seems to start on Thanksgiving Day for some retailers
Black Friday weekend
Black Friday week
Small Business Saturday (I do patronize small businesses)
Cyber Monday week
Black Friday extended
Cyber Monday extended
Super Saturday/Panic Saturday - the Saturday before Christmas
I even discovered "Buy Nothing Day," organized in 1992 as an international day of protest against consumerism. It happens after the United States' Thanksgiving, sometime between Black Friday and the last Saturday in November. Something I never heard about. Go figure!
We are just two weeks away from Christmas Day. May your days be merry and bright, and may your focus be on the reason for the season.