Thursday, November 7, 2013

Are You Kidding Me?

Have you ever read someone's blog and thought, "Are you kidding me?"

Seriously, I read other people's blogs, and I think to myself, "Are you kidding me?" There is no way I could be that creative, see that particular precious in the mundane, look that good, live THAT funny of a moment, with the perfect pairs of shoes to go with.

Right now, my brown pumps on my feet are about three flights of stairs away from splitting the side seam and sending me tumbling down said stairs, and it WON'T be a precious, funny or spiritual moment. Swearing may be involved.

I don't have any answers on how to deal with this, but seriously, someone has to stop me from looking at everyone else's highlight reel and comparing it to my play-by-play. The reality is that I've got a belly paunch that won't go away, my left foot is slightly larger than my right and both feet are continuing to grow, I frequently end up with a bad haircut and no guts to actually trim it into something trendier. I get cranky. God shows up and I miss Him. The mundane is mundane, and none of it is worth writing about.

But I also want to be honest about it all, because I'm sick and tired of my constant comparison to others, and never matching up.

Which may be why I'm blogging but have never told anyone outside my husband that this blog exists. Yup, that's some fun hypocrisy there...

But crap. I'll let it out here, see how it goes. If I come off as a little unvarnished, that's more true than if I ever come across as having my ducks in a row or my crap together.

I am neither a Stepford wife nor Kelly Ripa. I think Princess Kate may be one of the most beautiful people on the planet and I really like her style, but I'll never fit in her wardrobe.

Screw it. I'll just work on being me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

One Long, Hot Week of Summer

The first month I lived in Colorado, the Waldo Canyon Fire broke out. It was fascinating to watch - I had never seen a wild fire before. It broke the ridge on a Tuesday afternoon and came racing down the front face of the mountains, going so fast that you could literally monitor its progress down the hill in minutes.


Waldo Canyon Fire from my office window
 
It was amazing and destructive, and a bit upsetting. That being said, I was safe - the fire wasn't going to cross I-25 and get to my office or to the friend's house where I was staying at the time.

This summer, the Black Forest caught on fire. It destroyed twice the number of houses that the Waldo Canyon fire did. And it was on THIS side of the highway.

When the fire broke out, I was again at work. We saw the smoke plume from our windows, this time on the other side of the building. They let us out early that day, mainly because it sounded like roads were going to be a mess. When I got home, I realized that you could see the fire from our front porch.

 
We had an intern staying with us, from the East Coast. She was a little freaked out, which is understandable. It's hard to tell how close things are out here, since there is just WAY more sky available to see out there than back east! So, we took a drive so she could see just how far away the fire was (it wasn't close.)
 
 
The fire was out in the country. Far. We went home, and slept well.
 
And then the fire wasn't far. Really not far. The mandatory evac zone expanded, then expanded some more. I went home early when it was announced (incorrectly, it turned out) that our neighborhood had gone under pre-evac status. I worked from home the next day when the fire continued to spread. We really did go under pre-evac notice, and then voluntary evacuation status.
We are in the yellow -voluntary evacuation. Dark yellow is "pre-evac" and all of the red is "mandatory evac." 
 
I packed. Eric was out of town for work, so I was by myself. I figured that there wasn't a serious risk of our house burning down, but a pretty decent possibility that we could be out of the house for a period of time. However, I also knew I had to prepare for the worst.

Its amazing what you pack, and don't pack, when you think about things you have to have with you, that you absolutely can't have burn up. I went through rooms and said, "well, we're taking nothing from here." So what did I pack?
  • Clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Photo albums
  • Necessary documents - bills, mortgage statements, etc.
  • The "fireproof box" with the most important docs - birth certificates, passports, car titles, etc.
  • Christmas ornaments
  • Some of my grandmother's antiques
  • "Good" jewelry
  • Eric's football jerseys
  • My favorite Dicken's Village pieces
  • Grandma Bartlett's mirror
That's about it. It filled less than a car. Once you are done packing for a disaster, there isn't much to do but wait. The anxiety goes in waves - one moment you aren't thinking about anything in particular, the next, you are nervous for no defined reason. You pace, you walk through the house "one more time." Eric flew home early, and we waited.

We were ok. We were lucky. We were protected. We never went under mandatory evacuation, and, while the smoke came into the house (ask Eric about the duct tape I put around the doors), it was never TOO bad. Thank God, the firefighters, the national guard, and the volunteers who kept our neighborhood safe.

Here's hoping to a nice, wet next summer...

 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Meow

So, we've had a little drama around here this morning. It went a little something like this...

<< Email arrives inbox>>

 Email: Hey! Here is a picture of a really cute kitten that needs a home. We found it and if it doesn't get a home, the humane society will stick it in a bag and drown it. (ok, I "may" be paraphrasing here)

Me <<sends email to Eric.>>: Hey, know anyone who wants a cat?
 
(the below is copy/pasted directly from email)
 

E: Us?

Me: I wasn’t thinking about us, but do you want a kitty? It IS pretty cute, but I know NOTHING about caring for cats. Can I keep it in a box until you get home?


(second email) How young is too young to declaw a kitten? And, if I use the brush attachment, can I vacuum the dander and hair directly off of it?
 
E: You're funny.  

E: Can we be the last hope for kitty?

Me: You mean, we’ll take him/her if no one else does?
 
E: Maybe??
 
Me: OK. I emailed J (Thinking, no way there is a chance that this cat is coming to our house, so this is safe, right?) 
Me, to J: Let me know if no one else takes this tiny troublemaker. I’ve never had a pet, but cats are supposed to be more independent than dogs, and my husband really wants a pet. If no one else takes him, I will learn to be a pet mommy. But, this really has to be last resort - like, if its a choice between the needle and home, we'll take him, but if ANYONE else wants him, they get him.

<<Approximately .6 seconds later>>
 
J, to our entire 100 person department:  The kitty has found a home!  As long as he’s still available, you can congratulate Megan on the new addition to her family. J

Me, to J: J! Seriously! Last resort!


Panic ensues. And by ensues, I mean, I am panicking, thinking that I am going to have to pick up this cat tonight, and take it home. I am planning on having rice and beans for dinner. Do kittens eat rice and beans? What is it going to do while I sleep? Will it be ok? What if it needs something and I'm sleeping? Is it going to pee on the carpet? I'm going to get this thing home, and I'm going to look at it, and it's going to look at me, and I'm going ask it what it wants, and its just going to stare at me because CATS DON'T TALK! Crap, what have I done? Why did I even let this become a possibility. This was stupid, this may be the stupidest thing I have ever done. Oh, my, GOD I DON'T KNOW HOW TO TAKE CARE OF AN ANIMAL! AND ERIC IS IN CHICAGO AND THIS THING IS GOING TO BE IN MY HOUSE!

By this point, I am pretty much in tears, having a full on anxiety moment about this cat, and what in the holy !#%#@ I have done here.

Long story short, we aren't  getting a cat. We found a family for it who is MUCH better prepared for this kind of thing than I am, obviously.

Remind me not to do this again.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fall in Colorado

It is most assuredly fall in Colorado. We took the Thursday after I got back from Bolivia off and did a color drive through the front range.



 
Wow.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

You ate what?

So, I've had the opportunity now to travel to a number of different places, and most recently, some more far flung corners of the earth. Lots of people ask (and by lots of people, I mean mostly my parents) ask "what is the food like there?"

Food is so closely tied to culture, to family, to tradition, that it isn't surprising that lots of people ask about the food. To answer the questions, here are some snippets of emails I sent my parents about the food during my travels. Bon appetit.

Kenya

Day 5: Food is pretty good - they don't use salt in breads, which is interesting (read, bland). Sunday morning there were chicken gizzards covered by tomato slices and cilantro as part of breakfast. I didn't realize it was gizzard until I bit in... I've also had chicken (maybe pigeon? - very small) drummettes for breakfast, and goat several times for lunch or dinner. I like goat - its like lamb, but tougher (thank goodness for floss!) They also make something called uglai, which is basically mamaliga without the salt, or other flavoring. Add salt or use it to eat food, and its good.  Intestines are doing fine and the water purifier is working like a charm - the hotel also provides bottled water however.

Day 7: I meant that the bread products didn't have salt - or at the very least, not enough of it! I believe they use salt in other types of food. I had "lamb" for dinner tonight, which I think was mostly spiced with pepper, and I'm pretty sure was an old goat. I looked like a cow chewing cud trying to eat those little cuts of meat somehow referred to as "chops" at the hotel restaurant...

Day 16: After eating here for over two weeks, I can now definitely tell you that ostrich is better as a meat ball than a roast loin, however, goat is better as a roast loin than chunked into a stew. Crocodile can be overcooked and dry, but still tastes mostly like chicken with a vague fish finish. You can tell the difference between lamb and goat. A whole turkey on a pike will give you pause when it arrives on your plate. Ox balls (editor's note: yes, that IS what you just read) are reminiscent of tripe although not as strong but certainly something I can check off the list and not worry about having to eat again. Spinach really should not be consumed more than 7 or 8 times a week because after that it gets boring, especially creamed at breakfast. Speaking of breakfast, chicken gizzards are not an ideal breakfast meat, and bacon also comes in beef and not just pork. Lastly, the thing that is purple and white and cut like a baked potato is actually beef liver.

Ethiopia

Got to Ethiopia, and so far, no need for Cipro (knock on wood). I have no idea most of time what I'm eating, but it's tasting pretty good (although I passed on the whole fried fish with scales, fins, and eyes at lunch today). (editor's note: I never did figure out what the heck I ate, other than injira, just about the whole time I was there, but man is Ethiopian food tasty!)

Bolivia

Day One: Got to Bolivia just fine. Flight landed at 3:30 and got to bed about 5am, but today was a nothing day on the schedule, so we were able to recover. Had fried duck for lunch, which is a specialty around here. (editor's note: not kidding, the restaurant was named Cua-Cua, just like the sound a duck makes.)

Day Three: Cheese and pastries for breakfast, along with coffee that was so thick I could have painted walls with it. (editor's note: turned out, we were supposed to cut the coffee with either water or milk. Opps.)

Poverty Sucks

I recently returned from Bolivia, where I spent the week with Compassion. In case you are going, "wait, what? You just moved to Colorado?!?" Yea, so I'm behind in this whole blogging thing. I told you I might not be good at it. This is actually not my first work trip with Compassion. I was in Kenya for three weeks last October and then in Ethiopia in June. I'll catch up on that some time, but not now. Back to the subject at hand. Bolivia. The trip was a fast one - in on Monday, out on Friday, interview a million people in between.

The reality is that Bolivia is not the poorest country in the world. I spent the week doing a lot of mental comparisons - "well, these houses have actual tiles on them and not corrugated metal." "This courtyard at this church is bigger." I had to do a couple of mental checks. Yep, the roof is more solid and the courtyard is bigger, but I still wouldn't want that to be my life. Bolivia may not be the absolutely poorest country, but it doesn't have to be. Poverty exists. And Poverty sucks.

Poverty sucks life and it sucks hope. It makes people believe that this is all there is, and that life will never get better. People stop living and start existing.

I hate what poverty does to people. I hate what it does to me. I got home and went to church the next day, and in the middle of worship, lost my stuff. Let's be honest, I'm not exactly the most stoic of people out there. However, this was borderline ugly-cry, and you know what I'm talking about. I felt hopeless. The images of kids I had seen during the week flowed through my head. We sang about being together with Jesus, and I absolutely couldn't wait for him to return, because I in that moment, I was convinced that poverty would never get better until he came back. I was defeated.

If I get defeated after being NEAR it for a week, can you imagine living in that situation?

I can't let it defeat me. I also should get WAY more sleep before going to church after a cross-continent trip, but that's another story...

I have to choose to fight this. I have to realize that poverty is the enemy, and that I cannot let it win. I can't let it drag me down. I have to remember the kindness I saw in the children and the difference the churches were making in their lives. That we CAN and we WILL beat this thing back.

I watched kids rescue a tiny puppy that someone had thrown out, wrapped in plastic in a dumpster. They were nursing it and caring for it  - these little six, seven and eight year olds while I was interviewing their instructors.
(Photo of children examining puppy, while littler ones look on)





These kids have hearts and souls.



They love to play.
 
They laugh at me for trying to tell them I like how they brush their teeth after lunch.



They invite me to jump rope. These are the things I must always remember, the against the grain, darkness dispersing moments that remind me that this is a fight worth fighting. (Yes, that is me playing "lega-lega," which looked a lot like the "Chinese jump rope" I played as a kid. Yes, I'm jumping knee high rope in a skirt. The kids thought it was hilarious!)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Blog Start

So, I've been thinking about writing in a blog for a while. The problem is that I have never really been sure how to start, or really what to write. Is anyone really going to be interested in anything I have to say?

Well, I guess I can't be worried about that. I'll just start typing and writing and what comes, comes.

Life @ 7200 is exactly what it sounds like - figuring out life at 7,200 feet above sea level.

How did we get here? Well, that's an entirely different story.

We both grew up in Michigan. After college, Eric interned at a church in Michigan for a year, then took a job with Youth for Christ in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I - VERY RELUCTANTLY - joined him in Fort Wayne after I graduated. I was not thrilled about the prospect of Indiana, and made Eric PROMISE that we would only stay for a year. Then we would go to where ever I was going to go to grad school.

Ha.

We got jobs, got married, bought a house, I commuted to University of Michigan for grad school, got a different job, got a different house, got more jobs (on top of the ones we had), Eric started grad school at Huntington University... you know, life happened. We made friends, and got connected in our community. At some point, Eric went on staff full-time with the National Office of Youth for Christ, headquartered in Colorado. We moved his office home, to our basement.

Somehow, eleven years went by.

Eleven years.

During that eleven years, we started sponsoring Jane Wangui, a child living in desperate poverty in Limuru, Kenya, through Compassion International. Needless to say, we fell in love with her, loved writing to her and loved receiving letters from her. We learned more about Compassion, and really liked the organization. A couple years ago, I started thinking that Compassion might just be a pretty cool place to work. In February 2012, I started feeling like it was time to start thinking about a new job - and maybe just one job, if that was possible (I was working one full-time, and four part-time jobs! I was tired!) I applied to Compassion in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Big Brothers, Big Sisters in Fort Wayne. Soon, I thought I was out of the running with Compassion, and accepted with BBBS. Long story short, I wasn't. I finished my job on a Wednesday, and instead of taking two days off, I got on a plane. I spent the next two days in intense interviews with Compassion, and Friday afternoon, they offered me the job. I flew back to Fort Wayne, and Eric and I spent the weekend wrestling with and praying out the decision. By Sunday morning, it was clear that God had spoken, and we had reached a peach that we can't explain except for God.

Four days later, we put our house on the market.

Six says after that, we accepted an offer.

Five days after that, I drove out to Colorado..

I couch surfed for a month, and then we closed on the house in the Fort. We moved into an apartment for several (long) months, then bought a house in Monument, Colorado.

The top of Monument Hill is 7,200 feet, or approximately 10 times the elevation of Fort Wayne. The elevation at our front door is 7,088.

Welcome to Life at 7200.