Tag Archives: mompreneur

Diving into the deep end

Yesterday was my first Dental Screening. I volunteered to work security. It’s kind of like overseeing, with a team of other people, hundreds of starving people lined up for a free soup kitchen that is their only hope for a meal. Ever. But this was for people who need to see a Dentist. And most of whom didn’t speak English.

I had in the back of my mind the seriousness of the endeavor, as Dreamboat had been to an Eye Screening (for double cataracts) last week, where the crowd had gotten out of hand. When the door they were pushing against began to buckle, the screening was quickly cancelled.

We left the ship at 07:00 (we use nautical time here) and were instructed what to do, how to use our radios, and outfitted with bright orange vests. No piece of clothing has ever given me such authority before. Loved it.  (I’m thinking of wearing one daily to increase the respect I get from the family.)

It was a short drive to where the offshore dental team works, and when we arrived there were already hundreds of people lined up in mostly orderly rows divided by: men, women, and children.  After tucking some cash into the back of my pants (next time I’ll wear something with pockets!), I walked down the three lines and chatted with people. Greeting old and young men, holding babies, and talking with the women. And grateful my French was coming back.

They were beautiful. Colorful (I LOVE the fabrics here). Faces full of hope. Most were full of smiles. Those that weren’t smiling were holding hands to swollen cheeks, some with tears streaming down them, with obvious infection and lots and lots of pain.

Ever had a toothache? I can venture to say it HURT. My ability to consider other peoples’ feelings goes out the window when something really hurts.  But maybe that’s just me…

Hordes of other people, those in need of non-dental medical care, milled about. Waiting. Hoping. Fathers brought their sons to me and showed me disfigured legs. Mothers brought their daughters to me and peeled back their little fingers to show webbed hands from burn accidents. A man brought his blind father. A woman raised her shirt to show me growths in her breast. The need was heartbreaking and overwhelming. I was starting to regret the vest. Many of these beautiful, hurting people I sent away with a “Je suis desolee” [ I am sorry]…

…But, I am not a Doctor. Today is for teeth problems only. For those who need a dentist.  Watch and read The Journal for news if there is another General Screening.

Those I turned away thanked me for my time. Thanked me. One father said a blessing for me as I walked him and his young son away. I was stunned. That probably wouldn’t be my first response if one of my kids was turned away. I was humbled, amazed, and inspired by him. By the beauty I have encountered in the people here. Warm. Gracious. Kind. Honoring. Even in the face of incredible suffering.

Some of these, whose ailments were operable, we were able to quietly lead away from the crowds and behind security, to a medical screener, who took their contact information, to reach out to them in a couple of days.

I planted myself at the front of the line, just to the side of a very large puddle. I thought it was safer there. Less emotional land mines for me.

As the sun began beating down full-force, some of the little children began to fidget and cry.  One mama brought over a piece of cardboard, so her kids could rest their legs and sit for a while.

The adults explained to me that many had spent the night on the street (strong word for the dirt-packed, trash-littered, grass & mud-lined place that it was).  Some had been there since 02:00.  All were tired. Most were hungry.

As surreptitiously as I could, I pulled a sweaty 10,000 GFN ($1.42 USD) from my yoga pants and asked the security guard (a handful of whom Mercy Ships hires to secure their off-shore sites) to negotiate and buy bread rolls from a woman carrying them, in true African fashion, on top of her head.  She lowered her metal pail, and forked, hopefully fresh, rolls to the children.

Snapped with my phone to not attract the military protecting adjoining buildings from photographs.

Most of the women had obviously rotten teeth. They explained that they brush regularly.  But difficult pregnancies, with lots of vomiting, eats away the enamel. It’s one of the hordes of unpleasant reasons I stopped having babies. I would be waiting in line right there with them if I didn’t have access to the dentists I saw regularly through each pregnancy. And if I were born here, to similar circumstances.

As time wore on, the sweat beading on my upper lip began to bother me. Instinctively I brushed it off. And then thought of the disease. The cholera epidemic here. The germs I must have on my hands from all whom I’d touched. And then transferred to my face. And then I was ashamed for thinking of myself. For worrying about keeping my hands sanitized, when these women with whom I deeply identified, were facing such bigger issues. And would continue to face, long after the few hours I volunteered.

I’d like to say the dental team arrived and all ended well, and eventually it did. I was truly amazed. But, it didn’t end without bringing to light corruption and sadness.

The security guard at the front of the line, against Mercy Ships direction, had been making a list, and probably taking money, to secure places at the front of the line.  Him moving people around almost started several uprisings. He messed with the wrong mama’s! But, he’s lost his job, the waiting people were calmed, and then eventually screened by the dental team. Those with urgent needs were seen immediately. Many were given appointments for today.  Many were also told to come back Monday and Thursday of each week, until all are seen.

When my radio cackled it was time to leave, I wasn’t prepared to go. Not ready to leave. If it weren’t for the meetings waiting for me back on board, I would have stayed all day, sharing in the hurts and celebrating the joys with these inspiring people.

Physically, it was a tiring day.

Emotionally, it was exhausting.

And rewarding.

And, why I’m here.

8 Comments

Filed under September 2012

The adventure has begun

Rather than simply change planes in Brussels, we decided to spend a few days there, to adjust a bit to the time difference, and have a family break before starting life in Guinea. This picture sums up our five days in Brussels.

We had such a wonderful family time, to decompress, eat, drink, and be silly.

The flight to Conakry, was a deep (and LOUD) dive into local culture! The man a few rows ahead, traveling with his two young daughters, had his hands full. When he couldn’t get one of them to shush, either someone sitting within the sound barrier (eight rows front, back, and either side), or someone within arm’s reach, would take one of the girls.

Sometimes the man would raise a daughter up over his seat and hand her to an unwitting (but apparently not unwilling) passenger.  Sometimes it was initiated by the fellow passenger.  All of these were strangers.

And, strangely enough, each of them tried their hand at quieting the child.  Some were men, some were women.  They each succeeded in getting the girls to sleep. And then they would quietly pass the angelic, and finally quiet, girls back to their dad.

I think Peanut knew he was going to be handed over if he fussed, and was suspiciously quiet the entire seven hours. 

Our cabin on board the Africa Mercy has been a pleasant surprise!  It’s 10% of the size of our house, (it’s still our house–the sale fell through) but much bigger than we anticipated.  We’ve got Peanut’s stroller and backpack shoved behind the end of the couch, but we’re in!

The kids’ room has a bunk bed for the older two, and Peanut sleeps in a pack n’ play at the foot of their bed.  The room is just wide enough for him to reach over the side of his crib, open either of his siblings’ closets, and dump all their contents on the floor.  He’s greatly amused.  They’re campaigning for me to pay them in TV-time, every time they have to clean up one of his messes. I like the idea of paying for chores with something other than cash, but not sure TV-time is the winning currency.

Our “Master Bedroom” (had to say that - it makes me snort and giggle) is cozy. I love that Dreamboat and I literally brush past each other a dozen times an hour. Small spaces make for lots of contact. Can’t beat that.

Hmmm…I’m thinking that in the next house, we should switch the master bedroom with the closet. That’s a much better use of space.

Speaking of closets, I brought ALL the wrong clothes. This is a Moslem part of Africa. No ‘kneevage’ allowed. I’m looking at my knees with new eyes!

During breakfast, early one morning, (and, I do mean EARLY.  There are mandatory meetings that start at 7:45 am, and Dreamboat had left at 4:00am for a screening of potential patients with DOUBLE cataracts.) Miss O was telling me that I don’t understand how hard it is to be my daughter. Had I shown more sympathy to her plight, we might have avoided the incident that followed. But, I didn’t. And here’s what did.

Miss O, quite dramatically left to use the restroom. When closing the bathroom door, which is about three inches from the kitchen sink,  she was making a point. Firmly. And she locked it.

Now, the room we’re staying in isn’t used often. And, it was once the showcase cabin while the ship was being retrofit. And the keys to the rest of the ship don’t work here. And our doors are solid metal.

Without knowing any of this, Miss O shortly tried to leave the bathroom. The door would not unlock.  I have to admit I wasn’t feeling my MOST charitable, so I let G try to help her for a minute. Then, I tried pulling the door while she tried the lock. Then pushing the door. Then we tried passing things like coins under the door, to see if she could use them to unscrew something. Anything.  G tried passing his math under the door.  I think perhaps he had ulterior motives for that one.  But, I didn’t think it was serious. For Pete’s sake, if she locked the door, she could eventually unlock it. Right? So, while I tidied up from breakfast, we continued to encourage her through the locked door, and her voice stopped quivering and took on more of an annoyed tone. Again. I chalked it up to all the adjusting we’re doing, and continued trying to help.

After thirty minutes, I sheepishly called Reception, told them of our situation, and asked if there’s a master key.  Within minutes the Duty Officer arrived.  He called the First Officer. Who called the Captain. They worked for TWO AND A HALF HOURS.

While we waited, I took advantage of the forced halt to the day, ran Peanut up to Preschool (a thirty-second-commute), and made coffee to share with the Captain. We had a great chat and the officers provided emotional support to Miss O, asking her how she was doing every minute or two. I kept her supplied with reading material.

Finally, several drill bits later, and after trying several other options, including a crowbar to the frame, they drilled through the lock.

I’m grateful for the perceived lack of my empathy, as there was a great life-lesson for my girl.

I will also be grateful when a blank plate is placed over the gaping hole in the bathroom door.

There’s not enough bandwidth to upload the fifteen pictures I had planned to include. You can use your imaginations.

 

We all, truly, love the adventure so far.

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under September 2012

Nighttime dose of reality

I know the pictures of us touring Brussels look like so much fun. And we are having a great time. But, let’s not romanticize what traveling with three kids can look like. I won’t go into the detail of the fighting and bribing to get two of the three kids to eat, at two of yesterday’s three meals (we fixed the usual fare for breakfast, in our apartment).  But, I will give you a brief overview of what the night looked like.

We were going to have an early night.

That was the plan. But, plans don’t always happen.

After blowing (Ruining. Forever.) our Bluetooth speaker (our only provision for the music required for family dance-offs), Dreamboat figured out how to accommodate charging 3 devices through an assortment of converters, power strips, and adapters. One of the devices was my phone.

Dreamboat and I finally turned the light out just after midnight. I swear I had turned my phone off. Repeatedly. But, as it was one of the lucky electronics to be charging, when someone called at 2:30 AM, it rang. And rang. And rang. I finally unplugged it to get it to power off.  Even though it was arguably my fault, for the sake of preserving friendship, I’m not going to find out who called.

The call started a chain reaction.

First Peanut woke from what he thought was an afternoon nap.  After 30 minutes of listening to him (and potentially cursing his being awake. Potentially), I got up and gave him a Melatonin.  Yep. Drugged the Peanut.  Shouldn’t have wasted my time.  When I went back to bed he yelled loud enough to be heard back in Seattle. Woke the other two kids.

Here’s where the night took a decided downturn.

I brought Peanut to bed with us.

Now, I’m not a family-bed-kind-of-person.  No judgment here for those who are.  (I believe that whatever works for your family and gets your kids reared with the least parental-suffering, and I suppose, least child-suffering too, is a good way to go.)   For me, that means no co-sleeping. Co-sleeping means I suffer. And we all know, “when mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

I need my sleep. Dreamboat and kids will agree, I need my sleep.  In fact, I can totally see the appeal of Carol-Burnett-style-separate-beds. Just saying. (And, obviously I am seriously sleep-deprived or I wouldn’t ever say that. Ever.)

So, bringing Peanut to bed, which was a selfless gesture on my part to allow the older kids to sleep, had the usual disastrous effects on me. Even though I got more cuddles and kisses and slobbering and kicking and face-patting and hair playing (pulling) and eye poking and hand-holding than a girl could wish for.

Peanut thought he was in Heaven.

I thought I was in Hades.

Dreamboat slept through it. All.

At 5:20 am, Peanut fell asleep.  I immediately carried him back to his pop-up-crib and returned to bed.  Where I eventually fell back asleep.

At 7:00 am, construction started on the building across the street. Let’s just say my thoughts weren’t charitable and my earplugs, which I wear every night, can’t stand up to hammering on metal. With a metal hammer. At 7:00 am. After having been asleep for only 1.5 hours.

At 7:30 am, Miss O came in to show me a bite on her finger. A bite, on her finger?  From a bug. That’s why she thought it was ok to wake me? Really? I refrained from giving her a bite to complain about. But I thought about it.

I sent her away without acting on my thoughts. I thought I was even pleasantish. (Miss O may have a different opinion.) But, I bet she won’t wake me to show me a bug-bite tomorrow morning.  Although, she might wake me for a hangnail.

At 8:00 am, G woke up. And came to tell me was awake.  Wasn’t that thoughtful of him?

I gave up. Got up. Made some coffee.

I have to say, Douwe Egberts makes some delicious coffee. And, when paired with heavy whipping cream, it makes me happy.  And, drinking several 10-ounce ‘cups’, from a European-styled bowl, makes me really happy.  And helps to make-up for the lack of sleep.

So, I’ve now been up three hours, and Peanut is still sweetly sleeping.

And I’ve had lots of coffee.

I’m equal parts admiring and envious.  But, I’m letting him sleep.  How can I begrudge him the rest he needs, that also gives me the quiet I need to write?  And to enjoy yet another large bowl of heavy-cream filled coffee?

Once Peanut wakes, we’re off to explore the Atomium and other Brussels monuments, and free-museum Wednesdays.

And I’ve already warned the family that I may not be at my most-sweetest today. Let’s just hope there’s no discussion over trying new foods today.

They’ve been warned.

4 Comments

Filed under September 2012

For My FIVE Kids

Not sure I would ever say this out loud.  But, this is my private journal (right?).  I wrote this alone in a motel room, after a lovely glass of chilled rosé (it’s my favorite summer wine). And I recently read an inspiring story about an abandoned child that was rescued by Mercy Ships.

And, although I currently have three children, my key password at work is: For My FIVE Kids.

It’s not figured into our budget. There are no additional airline tickets purchased. And, just yesterday, Dreamboat tried to get me to agree we would NOT. But, here’s my secret hope…

There will be a child. Or siblings. Who need love. Our love.

I’ve always wanted five kids.  I remember Dreamboat’s eyes when I told him this particular dream of mine, on our fourth date (right after I told him that I don’t share well, and if he wanted to date the other girl he was seeing, then no hard feelings, but I wasn’t interested).  Well, obviously Dreamboat bet on me, and we’ve made three amazing children. And I barely lived through the pregnancies. And the family barely survived me being pregnant.  And I wouldn’t want to add children to our family while I’m busy working with my corporate clients.

BUT, while we’re taking this year to focus on family, should a child (or children) be without love. Without family. Without resources. Without hope.  Then, I want to be their answer.  We have love to give.  We have more resources than they were born to.  And, with this year “off”, we have the time to spend, incorporating them into our family structure. Loving them. Nurturing them. Showing them they are valued and unique and treasured.

It may not happen.  It doesn’t usually happen this way. In fact, Guinea’s adoption policy with the US is complicated.  And if it doesn’t happen, I’ll be OK. Disappointed. Maybe a bit heartbroken. But OK.

And, knowing me, I may put the dream to one side…but only for a while.

Miss O wants a little sister. I’m happy to comply. But, I’d be happy with any child. Boy or girl. Or one of each. Or two of one.

7 Comments

Filed under Aug 2012

Education and discontent

When Dreamboat and I were first married, we used to dream. A lot.  We’d play “What would you do if you won the lottery?”  We were broke and it was fun. And we learned about each other. And what inspires and motivates us.  And, not surprisingly, we learned that if there were piles and piles and oodles of money lying around (those MEGA million lotteries were the most inspiring), we both wanted to support education.  For other children. For other adults. For other countries.  Because we both firmly believe that when you educate a child, you bring hope to not only that child, but their family, their village, and their entire country.  As a former high school substitute and French teacher, I firmly believe this.

And, funny enough, my clients at Microsoft for the past several years, have been in education. Strange how that works. Isn’t it?

And, I’ve been inspired. (You will be too if you check out this video.  Promise).

And I’ve been reminded of the need for more education. Anthony Salcito, their VP of worldwide education is working tirelessly to support his belief that education for every child should be a Right. NOT a privilege. (I couldn’t agree more). His daily highlights of education heroes will remind you too (and inspire you. And on occasion, bring you to tears).

And I’ve been convicted to do more.

OK. I have to insert here that the ‘conviction’ partially came through hours, months, years of misery at work.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely, dearly, truly love Microsoft, and the $500 million they’ve poured into education (reaching 8 million teachers and 190 million students). I’ve gotten my kicks working with Ministers of Education around the globe. I’ve loved rolling out lesson plans focused on protecting our environment to 149 countries. I’ve been privileged to participate in bleeding-edge discussions around child-directed learning. It’s also been rewarding to get to challenge the Microsoft employees to do their part in education. To make a difference too.

And I sat next to CEO Steve Ballmer once (I’m still a total nerd at heart).

And, I got to make a few new entries to the list of countries I visited…which I have kept over the years.  I first started writing it in high school, when I was bored in classes.  I’ve kept it up in all sorts of boring meetings since then. That and ranking the list of guys I’ve kissed…which of course, I don’t do anymore.  (That also gets boring when Dreamboat clearly outranks anyone, and new entries stopped over fifteen years ago.)

Yes, I am that shallow. And obviously have no shame. Sorry Mom.

But, inside, I grew dissatisfied. And I lost some of my passion. I grew quieter. I started to settle with the small decisions. And then with the bigger decisions. And stopped voicing my opinion. And I felt like I was wimping out. I wasn’t living my best life.  I had more to give. More to do. More to be.

Of course being an entrepreneur in a large, corporate setting, isn’t easy either.

But now, as part of our year of travel, we’re going to DO more.  We’re going to volunteer with Mercy Ships, who work tirelessly to educate others about health, agriculture, and micro-enterprise.  We’re going to volunteer at an orphanage in Peru, and help ensure those children get the love and education they need to flourish and live their best lives.

And… and here’s the funny/hard/interesting part. This year away also means we’re going to school our own children.  HOMESCHOOL.  That word used to send chills down my spine.  I should never have said ‘never’. I know better.  But here we are. Homeschooling three kids for a year.  And I know that I’m putting into practice and living out what I believe in.  That education can change lives. And will change the lives of my kids. That this year of adventure and helping others, and culture shock, and hardship, and surfing lessons, and fine wine (not for the kids), and opening our kids’ eyes to the world, will teach them more than they could learn any other way. That this year of adventure will be the best education I can give them. And that they will be changed because of it.

And, they will thank us…maybe not right away, maybe not for a few years…but they will, in time, think of this year as one of the greatest gifts we could give them.  And, just like my time growing up on a ship made me who I am, this gift will shape who they become.

 

Ps – I’ve taken on one last client (of course it’s all about education) before we head out, to raise awareness for Microsoft’s Global Forum. It’s a joy and an honor to work to celebrate the world’s most innovative educators, who bring learning to life in the classroom and impact millions of students. And, hopefully (it’s commission-based) it will provide some income to help fund this year of education and adventure!

One of the AMAZING, innovative teachers being recognized at the Globl Forum

2 Comments

Filed under Aug 2012

It wasn’t pretty

Oh. My. Word.  I brought Peanut to Boulder, Colorado, for some alternative therapy to help speed up his development.  The trip was almost bad enough that the hoped-for-development-milestones weren’t quite worth it.  Almost. (OK.  That’s not true at all.  I’m a mama. We do crazy stuff for our kids).

It started out badly, in a rush.  We had 2 house-showings the day before. The two older kids were headed to camp the next morning. Dreamboat’s birthday was 2 days after I left. And the list goes on.

On our way to the airport, after we dropped off my car for repairs from backing into another car (I admit no fault — total deniability.), we were thrilled the Express Lanes were open in our direction (LOVE that invention). Then Dreamboat accidentally took a wrong turn onto an off-ramp that deposited us downtown. I should stop here.  The day took a definite downward turn.

Finally arriving late to the airport, after more wrong turns…once again, deniability. ( I directed absolutely none of them), and with my stress-induced-adult-acne going into overdrive, and after Dreamboat handed me some cash as I had NONE, I gratefully chose the “family in need of assistance” line at security–to the chagrin of the passengers around me.  There were some pointed, passive-aggressive comments about ‘cutting’ being spoken very loudly. Directed at the back of my head. I kept telling myself if they were only brave enough to be passive aggressive, then they didn’t deserve an answer…but I think that’s when the shaking started up in full swing.

After what felt like an eternity, Peanut, his car seat, his stroller, my briefcase, our suitcase, our shoes, and all the jewelry I wisely chose to wear for the airport screening, made it to the gate. We were the last people on the plane.  While finding our seats, I got a text from my sweet cousin saying she was waiting to pick us up on the West side of arrivals at DIA, to spend a little time together while she was to take me downtown Denver to pick up my rental car.

Wait. What???  Oh. No.

I had given her our departure time to pick us up. Not the arrival time.

So she, 10-and-a-half-months-pregnant (ok. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration), her husband, and their 2 year old little girl, had driven and hour and forty-five minutes to pick me up. I fessed up to my idiocy and profusely apologized.

They went to Ikea instead. While I continued to lament my idiocy.

When Peanut and I landed, I called the rental car agency to see if I could pick up the car at the airport, instead of downtown.  They couldn’t help, as I’d booked on Hotwire (trying to save money). I called Hotwire and listened to their lovely hold music for 49 minutes and 32 seconds before I accidentally hung up. You know that made me happy.

I talked with the local car rental desk who let me know the downtown office was closed anyway.  More joy.

Peanut only screamed twice, when he banged his head into the sharp suitcase handle hanging over his stroller.  Which, as the good mother that I am, I left there.  Because otherwise, how would I manage him, his stroller, his car seat, my bag, my computer, and our suitcase?

I lugged all our stuff onto a tram and headed out to the rental car lots.  By the way, Peanut has some latent fears from his accident.  Trams are one of them.  There was lots of screaming and tears.  From both of us. And I don’t have a traumatic history.  It wasn’t pretty…but it was loud. We got high scores for sheer volume.

After pleading my miserable story to the rental agency, and after trying to charge me DOUBLE the rate, she found me an available car.  Cheap person that I am, I went with a two-door option that was $5/day cheaper. Once again, I’m an idiot.  But, after only 20 minutes, I was able to maneuver the car seat into the back and got Peanut safety buckled.

I should just skip this part.  You don’t need to know how truly idiotic I can be.  But, in the interests of full disclosure, here goes.

It was a car with a button start. Keyless…

And I couldn’t figure it out. For a good 10 minutes.

I sat in the parking lot and kept pushing the damn ‘start’ button to no avail.

That’s about when I realized I’d only printed directions to the hotel, from the downtown car lot.  But, after figuring out how to start the car, and after only a couple of high-speed u-turns on the Denver freeways, I made it.

And, the nice gentleman from the liquor store (yes, that was my first stop), who carried my purchases out to the car, mentioned the car was still running.

Wait. What?? Oh no.

Yep. The ‘off’ button doesn’t work if you hold it down too long (which you have to do to start it).  And I left our car running in the parking lot while we bought wine and all the fixin’s for Mojitos.  And I talked myself out of buying a bottle opener.  Once again, the whole ‘cheap’ theme seems to not be serving me so well…(I’ll remind Dreamboat of this when discussing future purchases.)

When, late that evening, we finally made it to our hotel, the clerk at the front desk commented on the length of our stay.  You see, Peanut’s therapy is a two-week, intensive course.  The clerk asked if I’m here to visit family.

“No” I said, as sweetly as I could.

“Oh. Are you here for work?” she continued…

“No” I said, as sweetly as I could.

“Oh.  You just want to be HERE for two weeks?” she inquired?  By now, we had her FULL attention.

“Yes” I said, as sweetly as I could.  You see, I didn’t want to get into Peanut.  And his accident. And why we’re here for treatment.  And the hope I am trying to not feel.

She pursed her lips, arched her eyebrows, stopped asking questions, and handed over the room keys. I’m sure she marked my file to keep a close eye on us. If this were a TV show, I would have been entered on the ‘person of interest’ list that involved a room search and time in the local jail.

Then the real fun started.  In my kitchenette, I unpacked our ‘groceries’ and got out a glass.

I dug through the drawers and found the kitchen gadget that looked just like a bottle opener.  It wasn’t. It isn’t.

I hurt my fingers, and my ribs, when my hand flung off the rim of the bottle. After several failed attempts (ok. It was MANY attempts), eventually I gave up.

No wine for me.  (However, I did eat ½ a bag of chocolate chips).

But, peanut gave me lots and lots and lots of kisses. And cuddles.  And we’re safe. Unlike many people who went to watch the movies in Aurora just a few miles from here.

So, after a trip from hell, I go to bed grateful.

4 Comments

Filed under Aug 2012

Curfew and other vices

I’m starting to freak out a little about appropriate behavior during our three months on the Africa Mercy. And it’s not the kids’ behavior that concerns me….

I’m not a rule follower.  There I said it.

I have never been a rule follower.

My job is to question the rules.  Sometimes this has served me well (and benefited the processes, companies, service agencies, etc. around me).  Sometimes, well, not so much.

I think I’m in trouble.

Unfortunately, here’s where I have to admit that the last time I got spanked (yep – true story). I was fifteen-years-old and had disobeyed the ship rules by going on a deck which those under sixteen were only allowed on with an adult (it was deemed unsafe). And I got caught. Oops.

And, Dreamboat and I are taking the family to volunteer with Mercy Ships for three months. In Africa.

Alcohol and smoking are not permitted on the ship due to insurance reasons. I get that.  But here’s my secret hope: maybe they’ll reconsider when they meet my kids and realize we’re homeschooling for the first time in our lives, and when I convince them that being a parent and being in Africa and after a long day and when I’m longing for some peace and quiet, or had a really rough mentoring session with some of the crew, or want some alone time, or want to kick off a deep conversation with Dreamboat, or enjoy a good book, or need to really focus and prepare my management training classes for the following day…a glass of wine or good whiskey is the perfect answer to all of it.  And, I’d even go for bad whiskey…not yet sure about bad wine.  But, after a real scorcher of a day, I’m betting I would.

Smoking is not a temptation for me.  So, I’m good there. Whew.

So, at Bunko the other night, I asked the girls for advice on what to do if the ship doesn’t change their minds.  By the way, I’ve never yet played Bunko.  We talked. And drank good wine. And after you hear what we came up with, you’ll realize it was more than just one glass.

Their fantastic advice was for me to take up chewing tobacco in those little pre-stitched packages. I think it’s called “Snuff”.  The thinking is that I won’t be breaking any rules that could invalidate the ship’s insurance.  And, it would provide me with a quick and easy way to just chill and take the edge off.  And I wouldn’t have to deal with spitting out loose tobacco and carrying around some sort of receptacle all day.

And you know what?  It’s a viable option. I’m considering it.

I realize a mature adult would request someone in HR send me a list of official guidelines.  I haven’t. I’m too terrified of how long the list will be and that the part of me that doesn’t like to follow rules will rear her ugly head, dig in her heels, and decide to be stubborn. I’ve seen that happen.  It’s not pretty.

So, I’ve just been planning to go off the ship, find a little café, and have a glass of wine in the evenings now and then.

And today I heard from our travel agent that one of our flights was outside of ship curfew.

Wait…what?  C.U.R.F.E.W.

Oh help.  I can’t say it out loud yet.

I can feel my inner child’s heels digging in. Just a little.

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Filed under Aug 2012

Home – part two

I’m often told how strange/odd/unique/different I am.  It’s true. I am.  Just today I was trying to fill out one of those online password reminder forms.  It wanted the street I grew up on.  The city I lived in. My 3rd grade teacher…NONE of which I could answer.

So, here’s a bit of background on why I am such an alien. Happy alien. But still an alien.

I grew up on a ship. The Anastasis.  She was  a 522 ft. (183 m), 11,650 ton hospital ship that recently ‘retired’ (it was time.  She deserved to sail away on still, aqua waters, forever.  But, it was and still is, very hard to say goodbye). I moved onboard when I was nine.

See that third porthole back from the 4th deck up? I drew a yellow arrow for you…that’s my cabin…IS my cabin. ‘Cause in my head it’s still mine.

The facts are pretty simple.  How I felt about it is more complex…which I’m sure will feature in future blogs, as its part of who I am.

The Anastasis belonged to Mercy Ships. A non-profit organization that brings hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.  All their work is given for free.  They perform all sorts of surgeries, like the cleft lip and palate repair on this little one.

Their crew of volunteers minister to those terminally ill.

Train local personnel to address mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders.

Agricultural training.

Maternal health training.

Varied construction projects to build local hospitals, training centers, orphanages, and other community service facilities.

And distribute food and other supplies to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Here a picture of us kids (me, Luke and JP), shortly after we moved onboard, and then with Mom & Dad, and Charles, after he was born.

During my ten years onboard, we sailed all over, usually spending half of each year in the world’s poorest nations (by WHO standards), and visiting 1st world countries the other six months, to gather supplies, support, and volunteers.

‘The Ship’ as everyone calls it that lived onboard, was like a floating village.  There were upwards of 500 people and over 50 kids at any given time.  We had school in a designated area, built-out with classrooms on the aft (back) of one of the decks.  And unfortunately, Mom was the Principal for a while. I didn’t like that so much.  She was great, but you can’t get away with anything when your mom is your teachers’ boss…

We did science experiments and had piano lessons (and the dreaded recitals).

A nuclear submarine engineer and Chief Engineer taught my advanced trig and calc classes. During the summers we had to volunteer with the department of our choice.  My favorite jobs were volunteering with the fire team, the aft deck snack shop, and working with a construction crew. I’m sure painting on my arm was really helpful.

These glimpses into my life don’t really begin to describe it. I loved every minute of it in many ways, and at the same time really suffered from it too (mostly because of who I am). One of the things I found the hardest was the constant goodbyes to friends, either as we sailed away and waved goobye to them and their country, or as other ‘ships kids’ and their families moved back ’home’.

But, growing up on the ship gave me an innate understanding and love for people of other cultures.  That raises the question of what ‘other’ cultures are. Hmmm. Not sure what culture I am…But I know I am so very grateful for how blessed I was, and am.  Growing up as I did was the amazing gift that made me who I am. That gave me the heart for development. That exploded my worldview. That gave me such a feeling of fulfillment and joy. That helped me truly see and really love people.  All people.

And now, Dreamboat and I are about to take the kiddo’s back! Back to living with people from 149 countries.  Back to making a difference.  Back to doing our small part to change the world.

We start volunteering (yes, we’re PAYING for the privilege to work) on the Africa Mercy this fall.  This ship will be in Guinea.  My life, in an awesome and strange way, is coming full circle.  I get to introduce my kids to my home.  It will change their world…and make them odd too.

And by the way, I like being odd.  It suits me and it will suit them :-)

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Filed under July 2012