27 June 2011

Returning to My Heart

#63 I am soooooooooo grateful for an opportunity to return to Honduras this summer, return to my heart.

Dear Family of Friends,
What a difference a year makes! This time last year as I prepared to make my first trip to Honduras to work with The Micah Project* I had no idea what to expect and was anxious and nervous about meeting the guys. Now, as I prepare to make my third trip down, I can barely contain myself I am so eager to get back to "my boys." The Micah boys and young men have become part of my life in a way that even I didn't quite anticipate; which is evidenced by the large pictures hanging on the wall of my dining nook, decorating my fridge, the walls of my cubicle at work, along with a digital photo frame that rotates mostly snapshots of Micah, and my phone.

A week ago I wasn't sure how or when I was going to get back down to Honduras. I had been planning all year to go again with my church in August, but they had to postpone the trip. With a hope and a prayer, I contacted another church in Tigard that was sending a team this summer to see if I could possibly join them. It was a long shot, but God was preparing a spot for me on the team. What seemed like a fantasy within the last week has become reality. I am joining the team late, and now I need to 'catch up.'

Here are the particulars: I will be going with Grace Point Community Church. I am team member #19 (I like prime numbers!) - it's a large group. We will be going in the middle of the summer (for security reasons, I am leaving the dates out.). We will split the majority of our time between construction work on the new Micah home and children's ministry in the Villa Linda Miller community, adjacent to the new Micah location.  We will also join in for Friday night soccer with the street kids, and likely do some other street ministry. As always the overarching objective is to build relationships with the Micah boys and staff. My expenses for this outreach are $1900. Remember how I said that I need to catch up? Yeah... I need to have all my funding in by June 30th. I am looking to build a team of 30 people who can donate $20, 15 who are able to do $50, and 5 who are willing to give $100. If you would like to be part of my team, please email me and I will send you instructions. Finances are important, they make the plane ticket possible, but prayer is vital - if you want to be part of my prayer support team and receive updates, please email me and let me know.

Love-Laugh-Live, Jennifer

*If for some reason you are not familiar with the Micah Project, call me up, I'll take you for a coffee and tell you all about it!

26 June 2011

Never Say Never

I use the Nike+ program to track my walks/runs. Mostly walking these days, training for the Eugene Women's Half Marathon on September 4th. That race is my next goal, with a goal of finishing around 3:10 or under - hopefully right at 3 hours. July 4th I'll do the Sauvie Island Flat Half, that's just for fun. I have a warped sense of fun. My second next goal is to run the Holiday 10k. All that to say, I log a lot of miles into Nike+. I also get emails from the program, the latest one was about a competition on the Nike Running Facebook page. This week's challenge was to post a picture of your run where you finished faster than you started. I deleted the email, "I never finish faster!" What a ridiculous notion!

Saturday morning the training group that I am part of, Foot Traffic University, met at the Pumpkin Patch on Sauvie Island for a little preview run/walk of the Flat Half; a straight out and back of the final three miles. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining gloriously, the breeze was just a bit cool so I didn't get too hot. My only complaint was the lady who steered her old white Aerostar van right at me, nearly pegging me. Thankfully on race day, cars will not be allowed on the road. Using the Nike+ GPS app on my IPhone I get feedback every 15 minutes of how much time has elapsed, mileage covered, and average pace. I start slow and after a mile or so, I start to warm up and get into my groove. On Saturday, my groove was groovy. I felt really good, strong, and capable - despite the short night of sleep. At mile 3 when I start to level out, I started to notice that my average pace was increasingly going down. This trend continued for the next three miles. I had to stop at one point - I had rubbed my eye and dislodged my contact, in case it fell out I had to stay put. But I could feel it was still in my eye, just stuck somewhere, so I quickly started up again. The last mile I had to keep myself from running, my legs were turning over fast as they could. To my complete astonishment I ended my 6 mile walk with my fastest average (walking only) pace ever.

I had just done, what I thought I never did.

So what else have I not done, because I believed I wasn't capable?

Today, I took a snapshot of my splits and entered the contest!

21 June 2011

Clown Cup Cakery

My co-worker Kristi is a great friend. For her birthday I bake something special. This year, I took a stab at a new recipe from a link that a friend had posted on Facebook. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes - it sounded delicious! Something amazing for an amazing friend. It required two steps.

The first step is to make cookie dough - but without the baking powder, soda, or the egg, substituting milk for the eggs. Then scoop, roll, and shape. Place on the mat and freeze.

After the cookie dough is good and frozen - the next day for me - it's time to make the cupcake batter and place the logs of frozen cookie dough in the middle. I was rather skeptical of them turning out at this point.

But after they came out of the oven, my skepticism disappeared. I was hoping that all evidence of the cookie dough would disappear, but just a little flirted at the top, hinting at the surprise within.

Top off with a little cookie dough buttercream and some mini chocolate chips and they are looking tasty! So tasty that I had to take a bite. After all, they needed a taste test before I offered them to my co-workers.

Oh. My. Goodness!! Look at that little burst of cookie dough in the middle, offering a delightful surprise in an otherwise ordinary looking cupcake. That was the most amazing bite of my life! Seriously. I don't know that I have ever tasted anything quite so good, and it will take something amazing to top it. Best cupcake - EVER!

Now, if the cupcakes weren't incredibly awesome enough on their own, some also had an adorable clown decoration to make them perfect. Perfect in so many ways. Kristi, the birthday girl of honor, and Lindsay another co-worker with a birthday over the weekend, do not like clowns. It is an on-going joke between myself and several co-workers; I like clowns, want to be a clown, and several co-workers can't stand them. Adding to the clowniness, another good friend has a birthday coming up at the end of the week, so I made a few extra for him, a member of the Rose Festival Clown Corps.

17 June 2011

Am NOT!!

I am attending my 20 year high school reunion this weekend; one of two this summer. Lucky me! I went to two high schools so I get double the delight. I actually haven’t decided if I’ll attend Lake Oswego’s reunion in August even though I spent most of my school years with them. Oddly, the school that I spent one year at, Westside, has more pull, and that is the reunion happening tomorrow. Those who I regretted losing contact with from LO, I have been reunited with through the wonder of Facebook. 

Do the math: 20 years since high school + the average age of a high school graduate (although I was not typical and was young for my grade) = 37 years. Yes, I am in my late 30’s and in a couple months that last number will bump up by one when my birthday rolls around. That is the age of someone who is mature, responsible, has their life together and knows the path they are on… an adult; words that do not describe me, yet that is my age. Among my former classmates at Westside is the current principal of the school, of the LO classmates one is a grandmother – a GRANDMOTHER!! I’m still hoping that I might start a family and someone I grew up with has a grandchild? That is more than my mind can handle. Yet, I claim a pair of brothers at age 21 & 22 as my boys. Then there are the 20 other boys of Micah that I feel like I share some partial parental responsibility for and am eagerly trying to figure out a way to do more and take on more of a share. But they aren't really my children and I am attending this reunion alone - as the single, never married, childless person that I am. The only one in my class, as far as I know. It feels slightly awkward. My method of coping - a manicure and pedicure after work. If nothing else it will make my purple toenails less horrifying. Looking down and seeing bring happy pink makes me feel good.

I suppose that I am responsible at work – I completed my annual professional goal today. A year of test building efforts are done, new tests ready to be taken by students across the nation – and the world. Today I answered a question from one of our partners in Chile. I tried to advocate that they needed a personal response and that the company should send me down for a week. But I spent this week without my partner in crime. And by the end of the week I was fried and a little annoyed that Jon has been gone for the last seven work days. In response I left him a friendly message to come back to; now is that a sign of consideration and maturity or what?

There are several sayings about age being relative, my favorite is "Act your shoe size." You can call me old, that's fine, I'll just respond with "Am NOT!"

12 June 2011

Saturday... and the League of Justice

I guess a theme is developing around days of the week. Saturday I went out to lunch with my mom. For two hours I talked almost non-stop. Those of you who know me well are probably questioning that comment and think I'm making it up. I know, it is rare, but every once in a blue moon I talk a blue streak. As I said 'good-bye' I apologized for monopolizing the conversation and commented, "Saying everything out loud, my life sounds kind of like a soap opera." My mother too quickly agreed. Gee! Thanks, mom! "I can't believe I talked the whole time! Can you tell Jon is gone?"
Yes, Jon is gone. I took him and his wife, Missy, to the airport at the unreasonable hour of 5:30am on Thursday. They'll be back, but not until next weekend. I'm facing an entire week on my own at work. It makes me realize how much I depend on Jon, not only for work but for a social outlet too. Actually, I had to face this a month ago. He took a half week off for two weeks in a row, and when he was in the office, I was home sick. We went for two weeks without seeing each other. The first Monday we were both back in the office we talked like a couple magpies for an hour before getting to any work. Jon made the comment over Communicator a little later about how long it had been since we'd seen each other. I typed back: "I know! I've missed you!" His head reared back and brow furrowed in confusion as he gave me a quizzical look. "It's not the same around here without you." Jon, Jon, Jon... our relationship is beyond definition. Missy told me Thursday that I am his "office wife." I am not comfortable with that. I always wanted a twin brother like my mom. If I could choose, I'd choose Jon to be my twin. Which is why I call Jon my Wonder Twin. They may not be the coolest superheros in the halls of the Justice League, but it suits Jon and I. We work better together - Wonder Twins powers activate!

10 June 2011

Wednesday, really?!

This morning I woke up after an exhausting dream emotionally drained and disappointed with reality. I had been dreaming that I was at the Micah house loving and hugging my boys, but I was there for a funeral – which is what caused me to start my day zapped. As I contemplated what to wear today, I checked my calendar to see what meetings I had – can I go a little sloppy or do I need to spiff it up? As my phone opened up my list of appointments I was shocked to see that it was only Wednesday. What? How can that be? I’m spent. I’ve got nothing in my tank. How can it ONLY be Wednesday?
I trudged through the morning, mostly in a fog; sometimes spaced out and other times just wanting to curl up into a corner and cry my eyes out. I commented to someone that “…it has been a roller coaster of a week – and it’s only Wednesday.” It has been a week, five days, filled with self-doubt and frustration. The roller coaster started with totally bonking my 11.5 mile training walk on Saturday morning. Bonking as in, so severely hydrated I ended up curled up on the floor of Foot Traffic out of it. Our coach had to force me to drink some Nuun water, bring me wet paper towels to cool off, and care for me. Embarrassing! Slowly, after about an hour, I started normalizing and could sit up without seeing stars –or just blackness.  But I had to call my parents to come rescue me and take me home. This was only 11.5 miles, how do I expect to do 13.1 in a month? I’ve become this dehydrated once before, six years ago, while doing the very race I’m training for now. Self-doubt accompanied by fear about my ability to do the Flat Half this July 4th is nagging me still. The rest of Saturday and most of Sunday were spent in a haze of exhaustion. But Sunday night my blood boiled as a guy-friend and I clashed, yet once again. We have been friends for many years now, last fall the friendship took on a different nuance, one that I have not figured out how to navigate. After we both spewed words at each other sourced out of anger, hurt, and frustration, we said good-night in a huff. Monday night I was still upset, but also regretting my attitude, behavior and choice of words. But that didn’t stop me from imagining his face as the target for my punches as I powered through the end of my workout. By Tuesday afternoon I was left with just regret for my part and sent an email apology, sparse on words as my words tend to get me in trouble. Tuesday evening I went out with a group of friends from work to celebrate Michelle’s new adventure; she and her family are moving to Moscow – as in Russia, not Idaho – to teach at an International school. She met her Peruvian husband while they were teachers at an International school in Spain, had their first child while teaching in China, now that their second child is nearly potty trained, why not head to Russia? Sounds like a great plan to me. While I do not know Michelle as well as I would like, I will miss her and frankly I’m a bit jealous. I want an adventure of my own, to be moving internationally, to take on new challenges, mix up the status quo and break out of the norm. I left our party a little melancholy, wondering if I will have the guts to act when my opportunity does come. Noticing that my gas tank was nearing empty I knew just what to do to cheer up – visit my local Chevron and see my gas station boyfriend, Manuel. Ah, yes. Being called “princesa,” told that I’m beautiful, have lovely eyes, and as I drive away hearing him yell, “I love you!” couldn’t help but cheer me up and bring a smile to my face as I laughed over his antics. Once home, I had one chore to do before bed, pack up all the clothes that my mom and I were donating to Dress for Success; a couple co-workers were organizing a clothing drive the next day. I started sorting through my clothes which I didn’t think would be emotional, but I was very wrong. I have recently lost a lot of weight, I plan to lose more, and consequently a lot of my clothes do not fit anymore. I knew this, which is why I was planning to give them away to a good cause. But actually taking them off my wood hangers and putting them on plastic hangers and placing them in the give-away pile was difficult and frightening. “What if I can’t do it? What if I fail and gain all this weight back? I really like this skirt, maybe I could tailor it; maybe I should keep this just in case.” The last three months I have discovered a self-discipline and determination that I didn’t know I had, that I had always admired in my grandmother and wished I had inherited. Apparently I just needed to choose to have it. After much debating, putting things back on the closet rod, back in the pile, back on the rod, and finally in the “go” pile, I came to the conclusion that I have been doing it, I will continue to make the right choices, and I will be successful and will not need these clothes ever again. But the emotional journey to get to that decision was exhausting! I collapsed into bed an hour past my bedtime with the back seat of my car piled with clothes ready to pass on to someone else. Then that dream, both wonderful and dreadful all at the same time. My deep longing to be with my boys, hugging Miguel, taunting Joel, laughing with Hector, and in my dream there was no language barrier, but the shadow of a funeral added an oppressive feel to the dream. With all of this in the last five days, is it any wonder that I woke up exhausted, tired and surprised that it was only Wednesday?
I went to lunch with two co-worker friends and that was good to get out of the building, walk a little, talk with people, my spirits started to revive. In the afternoon I had a phone appointment. I took my laptop and phone into one of the mini-conference rooms so that I had some privacy. I had asked the leader of the Honduras mission team from Grace Point Community Church if I could join their team as River West had decided not to go this summer. Much to my surprise he was open to the idea, but wanted to talk to me about it further. After a half hour of chatting, it was decided that I would join their team. I was thrilled to have a plan for getting back to Honduras! Aaron had emailed Brian to see if adding another person to the already large group of 18 would cause problems with the logistics; Brian answered back, ‘Jenn is a rock star and we’d love to have her on the team.’ That made my day! It seems like God was making a way for me ahead of time. The GPCC team had to reserve their air tickets a month or so ago, but recently one of the team members needed to make other plans to come back early to be the best man in a wedding, so they purchased another ticket for him, which left one “extra” ticket in the group reservation.  A ticket that will now have my name on it!  My morning started with just dreaming about hugging my boys and is ending with the elation of having a date when I will actually be able to wrap my arms around them and squeeze them tight. Wednesday didn’t turn out so bad after all.

05 June 2011

Friday Funny

I have taken on an unofficial job responsibility at work of sending out the "Friday Funny," an email with a video link, cartoon, cute animal picture, or some such web nonsense that will elicit at least a smile if not a full on chuckle from my work-mates. My team is often stressed and a bit frazzled by the amount of work and deadlines that we have to deal with; we need to lighten up, and people put funny things out there. You won't find "Send Friday Funny email to team" in my job description, but it is expected of me as if it were written in stone. Teammates send me material and suggestions for future emails. Throughout the week I keep a watchful eye out for good fodder. Unwittingly, my brother is my biggest helper in fulfilling this duty. His Twitter and Facebook feed is my most common source of material. He is the funniest person I know, and he finds good stuff. I enjoy sending these emails – I enjoy making people laugh. The best part happens within the first 10 minutes after I send it out, as I hear laughter randomly pop from different cubicles across the normally 'quiet as a library' floor. 
Here's an example from this week's email. Enjoy!