Wednesday, July 30, 2008

burt's bees

My friend Jen has long been obsessed with Burt's Bees lip balm. I never really gave it a second thought--I'm a ChapStick girl myself. But last week, I was in a checkout line in the Bradenton Wal-Mart, and right next to the ChapStick I noticed a box full of Burt's Bees. On a whim, I bought some. There's no comparison--Burt's Bees is awesome!

battle of the sexes, music style

Val and I have had several conversations lately about how we vastly prefer male musicians to female musicians. And it's not because we think the guys are hot--I can only think of one singer I've ever had a "crush" on, and that lasted for about two minutes when I was a teenager--I think I just prefer male voices to female.

At least I thought I did. As Melissa and Stacey were playing country music for me tonight, I realized that there's not a single male country singer I like. Not one. (Except Randy Travis, but I don't like his music. He's in my favorite Christmas movie.) But I could name several female singers who have at least one or two songs I enjoy--Faith Hill, Shania Twain, Reba McEntire, Julianne Hough, Trisha Yearwood.

So what's the deal? Do you have a specific gender you prefer when listening to music, or are Val and I just weird?

girls' night

I met Melissa for supper at Carlos O'Kelly's. We hadn't seen each other in over a month, and we hadn't had a chance to just sit around and talk in . . . well, I don't know how long! It was so nice to catch up with nothing pressing cutting into our time together. (Well, except for the waitress, who came back to make sure we were doing OK six or seven times after we paid our bill!) We finally decided to go back to Melissa's apartment, where we continued chatting until her sister Stacey came home. Then we started talking about my recent fascination with country music, and they played several of their favorite songs for me. And, while a couple of the songs made me cringe (or laugh out loud--Bucky Covington???), I didn't hate it. We laughed, we reminisced, we sang along with the music (not the country . . . at least not me!). It was an amazingly relaxing way to spend the evening!

Monday, July 28, 2008

i am so cool

I'm not big on tennis shoes. I have my Nikes that I wear to work out and if I think I absolutely must wear walking shoes. I have to dress up for work, so most of my shoes are of the dressy variety. I wear flip flops whenever I can.

When I learned we'd be doing work in Florida that could be dirty, I decided to buy a some cheap tennies . . . I couldn't risk ruining my Nikes! I soon learned that even "cheap" tennis shoes cost $15-$20 . . . even the kind you find at Wal-Mart! I was about to bite the bullet when I found these gems at Shopko:
They were $10. But get this--they were originally $30. THIRTY DOLLARS??? Seriously? They look like they should be worn by a 6th grader . . . in 1993.

we made the news

For several days during the trip, members of our team and The Bridge's youth group worked together to fix up a house in a rough area of Bradenton. On Wednesday, a reporter from the Bradenton Herald interviewed a few of the workers. Read the article here, and go here to see the pics. (Click on "Church Volunteers Paint Home.") My cousin Chrissy is in picture 6, and Val is in picture 7.

we're number two!

According to a report released by the Corporation for National & Community Service, Nebraska ranks number two in the country (behind Utah) in the percentage of adults who volunteer in some capacity. 39.8% of us volunteer! Of course, that number should be higher, but still, it makes me proud to be a Nebraskan!

the boy who stole my heart

I've been home from Florida for just over a day now, and I'm sure tales of the trip will come out in bits and pieces. The very first thing I have to talk about is Dylan.

Our main purpose for this trip was to help at a VBS alternative at The Bridge Church in Bradenton, Florida. The VBS (Miss Shelly, the camp director, would kill me if she knew I was calling it that!) was split into four camps--cooking, drama, soccer, and football. We were in charge of the sports camps. I was apprehensive, to say the least, about helping kids learn about sports. Sports instruction from a girl whose only experience was in junior high--and even then she only participated because she had to--how good could that be?

On the first night of camp, I found out that another lady and I would begin as floaters in the sports camps, going wherever they needed extra help. A few minutes later, everything changed. As the kids arrived, we played games with them or supervised them on the playground. I was watching kids on the playground when Kate pulled me aside. "We have a special needs boy that needs someone to play with him until camp starts."

That's when I met Dylan. He's 7, just finished Kindergarten, and has Down Syndrome or something similar. We played outside for a few minutes, then it was time for camp to start. I walked him into the sanctuary, looking for someone who I assumed would "take over" for me. Miss Shelly was helping kids find their places, and I asked her what to do with Dylan. "He's in cooking," she said. "Sit with him over there." Oh, so maybe no one else is going to help him. Throughout the opening, I wondered what would happen when the camps split up. I asked one of the cooking leaders if someone would be helping Dylan cook. "We don't have very many leaders, but we can manage. You can go to sports camp." But I knew I couldn't do that. So I followed Dylan to cooking camp and helped him mix up his Artesian bread. I also cleaned dough out of the water fountain (he used it as a sink to wash his hands), helped him put on and take off his apron repeatedly, and drug him back to the table time after time (he's deceptively quick!). At the end of the evening, I was exhausted. Then I met his mom. She thanked me profusely for helping Dylan. "And you'll be with him all week, right?" Of course I said yes.

The next morning, I told the team about Dylan and asked them to pray for me. I also emailed the people from my church who had signed up to receive email updates and asked them to pray, too. I knew that without God's intervention, I'd never make it through the week--what did I know about special needs kids? On Tuesday, I learned that Dylan would listen to me if I prefaced what I was saying with a firm "Look at me." On Wednesday, I learned that pulling Dylan onto my lap and wrapping my arms around him would calm him down. On Thursday, I learned that whispering into his ear would distract him from whatever he wasn't supposed to be doing. And on Friday, I learned how to dance like the penguin in Happy Feet. (Steph would be happy to tell you about that last one. I've never seen her laugh so hard. I'm sure I looked like a doofus . . . but I didn't care!)

Each day, I'd wait outside for Dylan. Each day, he'd run to me with arms outstretched. Each day, he'd tell me he missed me! On Friday, he and his mom brought me flowers. His mom hugged me and thanked me for making it possible for Dylan to be at camp. But you know what? Dylan blessed me at least as much as, if not more than, I blessed him and his mom. It was hard to say goodbye, especially knowing that I may never see Dylan again in this life. I'm not sure how much he understands, but I do know he loves Jesus, so I have hope that I'll see him in eternity.

On Monday night, I was reading my Bible by the pool (yeah, we had it rough . . . a pool in our backyard!). In my regular Bible reading, I'm in 2 Corinthians--and so many times on the trip, what I read completely matched up with what I was going through. It was very cool. Anyway, Monday night, I read 2 Corinthians 5. Paul talks about our new heavenly bodies, and verse 3 stuck out: "We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing." I couldn't help but think of Dylan. He will go through his life in a body that is far from perfect, but oh, what God has waiting for him in heaven!

Monday, July 21, 2008

hello from florida!

So far, the time in Florida has been intense . . . good, but extremely tiring. We're certainly keeping busy! I haven't had much time at all to access the internet, and I don't have time to write now. Just wanted to let you know that I made it safely and had an amazing time at Disney World! I'll try to write more this week but won't promise anything. But you can plan on a long update come Sunday!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

one more from nebraska

I have a sleeping problem. Normally, I sleep just fine, but whenever I know I need to get a lot of sleep, I can't. I usually get about three hours of sleep before our first few speech meets, even though I go to bed by 10 or earlier . . . it's just something about knowing that I'll need to get up at 5 that keeps me from getting to sleep. (After about three weeks of speech, fatigue sets in, and I have no trouble sleeping!)

At 8 p.m., we'll leave for a 24-hour trip to Florida. I'm one of the drivers. As I don't sleep very well in cars, I knew that I needed to get a lot of sleep leading up to the trip. It didn't happen. Last night was my last chance. I packed until 11:30, then went to bed. And tossed. And turned. Adjusted my fan. Covered up the numbers on my alarm clock. Finally, I fell asleep. At 4:20, I woke to a strange grinding noise. It was my air conditioner rapidly turning off and on. Then it just turned off . . . I'd lost power. The power was off for 15 minutes--it's amazing how quickly my apartment became stuffy! Once the power came back on, I was awake. So I went through the whole toss-and-turn thing again. And when I did sleep, it wasn't very soundly. Needless to say, I feel like I've been run over by a train. And just sitting here at my desk during my lunch break, I'm about to go to sleep. I'll be taking most of the afternoon off to hopefully take a nap--'cause if I had to drive right now? We'd all be in trouble!

UPDATE: I left work at 1:30 and got in a wonderful 1 1/2 hour nap! I feel like a new person, and I'm ready to get on the road!

Monday, July 14, 2008

the night before

In just under 24 hours, I'll join 11 others for a 24 hour (at least!) drive to Bradenton, Florida. We'll be helping with a sports (!) camp and helping clean up/remodel a house. With only 23 hours to go before I have to arrive at church, I should be a little more focused on packing. Instead, I'm downloading music from Amazon. And here's the thing: I'm downloading country music! Did someone perform a brain transplant on me? I've recently become quite captivated by GAC (Great American Country). Country music videos are so interesting! And some of the music isn't half bad, either. Wow, I can't even believe I just typed those words! (My favorite video of the moment is "This Is Me You're Talking To" by Trisha Yearwood. It makes me want to cry . . . and I don't even have a long lost love!)

I'm having serious trouble fitting everything into my suitcase. I think I may have it whittled down enough, provided I really do only have to look "nice" twice. It's so hard to know how much to take--I want to be prepared but not overprepared.

When I was a kid, it used to drive me nuts that Mom always wanted the house picked up and the dishes washed before we left for a vacation. Now, I totally understand. My apartment is a wreck, and I dread coming home to a messy apartment. I'm not sure how much I'll get cleaned up, though . . . especially since I'm sitting here at the computer instead of packing!

On the last day of the sports camp, I have to give the devotional. The theme is "Heart of a Winner," with one lesson based on each letter in "Heart." I have "T"--Trust. The supplied curriculum isn't very helpful as it's full of games and activities, and the devotional is supposed to take place during the kids' snack break. You'd think that with all of the Sparks lessons I've done, this would be a piece of cake. Nope--I'm still nervous, and I still don't know what to say!

Saturday, we're going to Disney World! I've wanted to go for as long as I can remember. I always said I'd go there on my honeymoon . . . but with no honeymoon in the foreseeable future, I'm sure glad we're going now! I wonder if it will live up to what I've built up in my head . . .

I have to throw in a quick plug for Psych. Season three begins on Friday (10/9 central) on USA. It's full of 80's and 90's pop culture references and is a really fun way to spend an hour. If you don't get USA (or you just want to catch up on old episodes), you can watch full episodes here.

I really do need to get to work now . . . I'll try to post again from Florida.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

and the moral of the story is . . . open your junk mail!

I'm a big believer in online bill paying. It's so much simpler than writing a check, buying a stamp, and relying on the good old USPS to get the payments there on time. If I could pay my rent and utility bills online, I would . . . those are the only two checks I regularly write.

This morning, I remembered that it was time to pay my credit card bill. This credit card is from one of the major credit card companies, and I actually have two cards from them--one I use regularly, and one that I've never used. (I applied for it at Universal Studios to get the free bag they were offering. I meant to close it, but I just never got around to it.) When I logged in to my account this morning, though, I saw that I had three cards listed! Everything I've ever heard about identity theft started running through my head . . . closely followed by the jingle on the ads. I searched the credit card company's website for info on closing accounts, but of course, I couldn't find it. I couldn't find information on when any of the cards were opened, either.
I did find out that the mailing address listed for all three cards was my real address.

As soon as I got home, I began searching through my junk mail to see if a credit card had arrived and I'd just missed it. It wouldn't be that surprising, really, considering I rarely read my junk mail. It either goes directly into the trash or onto the table for future opening. I didn't find a card, but I did find . . . a letter from my credit card company informing me that the Universal card could no longer be used after June 30 and they would be sending me a new card with a new account number. During the transition period, both accounts are technically open. Whew! As soon as the new card comes, I'm closing the account.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

just call me "handy"

The Christmas before I started at Grace, my aunt gave me an odd Christmas present: a screwdriver with four interchangeable tips. She told me it was something every girl should have before going away to college. As strange a gift as it seemed at the time, I've found myself grateful for it over and over again. Here's the thing: Every time I use the screwdriver, I feel like I've accomplished something great. Really all I'm doing is tightening the screws on my desk chair, pounding a nail into the wall (the handle makes a pretty decent hammer), or putting together a bookshelf. But I get that independent, I-don't-need-a-man-to-survive feeling . . . and I really like it! Take the other night, for example. I was rewinding a video when I heard a strange noise coming from the VCR. I tried ejecting the tape, but it was stuck. My first thought was to take the VCR to my dad. As I was unplugging it, though, I noticed four screws on the top panel. I unscrewed them, took off the top, unstuck the tape, rewound it, put the top back on, and watched my movie. And felt very . . . satisfied.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

happy anniversary

I moved into my apartment two years ago today. At the time, I wasn't sure why I was moving--I'd been living in Grand Island with one of my best friends, and I loved every minute of it. But I was sure that God wanted me to move back to Central City, so I did.

Two years later, the blessings of following God are innumerable. I've saved hundreds of dollars on gas. I was able to be close by following my dad's broken leg. I spend more time with my family. I'm able to have my students over for meals. I've gotten very close to my youngest sister, who I didn't know very well because she was nine when I left for college. I'm able to spend each Wednesday night during the school year with 25-30 amazing kids. I could keep going!

Today, I had another lesson in trusting God. While I was bored at work this afternoon, I started thinking about a couple that's raising support to go to Paraguay as missionaries. And suddenly, I knew that I needed to send them money, and I knew exactly what amount. But then I got to thinking about my own financial state. I'm not strapped, but I'm not getting paid regularly, and I'm getting ready to go on a missions trip. Whatever money I don't raise, I'll have to cover myself. My next thought was to wait until I get my paycheck . . . but as soon as I thought it, I knew that was wrong. God was asking me to send them money now, not 1, 2, or 3 weeks from now. So I wrote out the check and mailed it, choosing to trust that God would take care of me. When I arrived home, I checked my mailbox. I had four envelopes . . . and all of them contained money for my trip! God is good!