I’m still alive – Here’s what I’ve been doing.

O.k., so I know that the last few months have been pretty sketchy as far as my blog posting.  You wouldn’t believe the back up of fun things that I have to post about though.  Here are a few of the activities that I have piling up in my photo files.  I can almost bet that I won’t get to all of them, but if you see something that sounds particularly interesting, let me know and I’ll work on those ASAP. Besides the busy schedule, I also have been having some technical problems with my laptop AND just hit the wall with the message that my external drive (where I store all my photos) is full.  Looks like I’ll be shopping for a new external drive.  Hopefully we won’t need to get a new laptop, but I’m a little concerned that it might breakdown on our trip in August.  Hopefully it will be resolved one way or the other before then.

Here’s a little sneak peak for one of the events.  This is Steve Larson and Bob Ryan performing in The Dubious Brothers Radio (Stage) Show for the Open Door to the World Annual Fundraiser last weekend.  Sorry, I don’t have the exact name of it.  Click to enlarge.  Lots more photos on that to come.

Steve Larson and Bob Ryan - The Dubious Brothers

Here’s the list of my latest activities that are waiting to post…any preferences?

  1. My sister’s new branch (it’s decorated and hanging on her wall)
  2. Dinner at the Mozingo’s with the reunion team – can you say AMAZING!
  3. Moving my mom to a new apartment
  4. Dinner at the Daily Dose Bar & Grill, then Fiddler on the Roof at Grady Gammage with Terry and his mom
  5. Greater Reach Ministries Fund-raiser Brunch at the…
  6. Historic Squaw Peak Inn – mini tour
  7. Open Door to the World – Dubious Brothers Show, Dinner and Fundraiser
  8. Glory Road band mini-reunion
  9. Putting in the patio at the Mozingos
  10. I’m growing orchids and they’re still alive!  Photos and everything
  11. Spring Training Dbacks game with the Truefaced Team
  12. Carefree Art Festival
  13. Grocery Shopping with my mom – just for posterity
  14. Uncle Al’s Hot Dogs
  15. Check Please Arizona” – New Phoenix metro restaurant review show on PBS
  16. Cantina Laredo Mexican Restaurant

A Trip Down Memory Lane…
I’m starting to work on a short slideshow of the history of our church, Open Door Fellowship. I recently attended our Newcomer’s Class, even though I started attending over 30 years ago (with an 18 year absence in the middle when we lived in California).

They didn’t have a class like this when I started attending when I was 16 years old, so I went to the Newcomer’s Class just to see how they describe this unique family when people are new. It was a wonderful reminder of all the reasons that I love this place and hope that we never have to leave again.

Anyway, one of the Sundays they went thru the 30+ year history (which was fun). While they were talking thru it, I had so many pictures pop into my head of the various buildings that we met in, and the people in those “early days” when most of the attenders were hippy Jesus Freaks (in the 70’s).

So I offered to work on a slide show that they can use in future classes just to give people a flavor of where we’ve been. It doesn’t need to be anything too long because the newcomers won’t really care about too much detail, but I thought it would be fun to give them some visuals just for the big picture. So, I’m starting to try to track down old pictures.

These are a few pictures that I came across of Terry and I and friends from the “early days” when we were each singing in Christian bands. Terry’s band, Glory Road, was more rock n roll, and a little bit country rock. The band I was in, Shira, was more of a folk band. We had tons of fun.

If you notice Terry’s pictures, he goes from almost no beard to a ZZ Top-type beard. Isn’t he just so cute?

My hair was long, I didn’t wear make-up and overalls were my very favorite thing to wear. I would still wear them if I could. They were SO comfortable!

The most awesome thing about all of these memories is that we’re still in touch with most of these people on a regular basis. The picture at the top is my precious friend, Sharon and me when we were teenagers. She’s also in the center of the last picture with her future husband, Jay on the left of the picture. She is still one of my dearest friends. We also just saw two of the guys from Glory Road a few weeks ago when we went to see John, who is still playing guitar. What an amazing gift in this transitional culture to have such sweet friendships that have continued over more than 3 decades.

I really believe that much of that is due to the environment of grace that has been cultivated in this place since the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, mistakes are made and people are hurt because we’re human, but the goal is to be able to forgive and continue to love each other, no matter what. I am so thankful to be part of this amazing family of God.

Update from Sharon in Kuwait

The wind has stopped blowing. We have had a sandstorm blowing for 3 days. I am told this is called a Shahlam. Here’s a link to some pics of a dust storm here last year.

Constant dust, dirt and sand blowing constantly everywhere in everything. This is a regular weather occurrence that lasts 1-3 days.The world as I know it is covered in sand, dirt and dust in my bed, my clothes, hair, skin. I am a bit weakened and rundown from working 7 days a week for months on end. And after what has amounted to inhaling pounds of dust and dirt, my lungs have become a haven for an upper resperitory infection. I cant breathe, coughing,and congested, general unwellness prevails. So, the Shahlam has ended and Inshallah (God willing) I will be leaving here in about 35 days.

I also attended a briefing, which is mandatory for all returning military and deployed civilians. The briefing includes information on financial issues and a chaplain’s briefing on readjustment to normal life and suicide prevention. Last month 24 soldiers committed suicide. The highest suicide rate for one month in history. What can someone say about such things? I ask you to think about this issue with your heart and spirit. I think the number speaks for itself. For every
soldier who commits suicide, friends, family, wives and children are left to bear the pain.

So, not only 24 soldiers committed suicide, if that does not give you pause, 24 families were decimated to the point of despair and lifelong heartache. You must hear this with your heart. Enough Said!

As-salaam Alaaikum ( Peace be upon you/Peace be with you )

Sharon’s journal from Kuwait (Part 5)

I’ve got a busy week coming up! (Nancy, not Sharon – although I’m sure she’s busy too.) She’s busy helping soldiers in much less happy ways than I get to help people around here. I’m glad she’s there to help.

  • I helped with a 1/2 day event at work today
  • Planning a (post-holiday) Ladies’ New Year dinner for 13 for Monday night
  • Coordinating all the food for a Ladies’ Sneak-Away local retreat at our church for around 120 next Friday/Saturday.

Needless to say, there’s a lot to be done. Pray for me for stamina, focus, creativity, attention to detail and lots of volunteers. I didn’t plan it this way, they just all kind of fell close together on the calendar. So instead of writing more about me, I thought I’d post a new journal entry from Sharon in Kuwait. Here are a couple of pics that she sent too.

FROM SHARON’S JOURNAL:
Outside the wire there is nothing. Nothing but dirt, dust and sand, nothing. The perimeter wire is a very tall fence topped with razor wire, like the ones surrounding prisons. Inside the wire is more sand, dirt, dust topped by concrete buildings, beige tents, blast walls, bomb shelter bunkers and military tactical vehicles.

But there are small signs of life. Underneath a camouflage net, a little way from the bunker, a watermelon seed grows in a pot placed on a homemade picnic table constructed from scrap lumber. I am told that a soldier who planted it now lives at Walter Reed VA Hospital as a Wounded Warrior. He was so desperate to see something grow he dug the seeds from his watermelon at lunch one day. He found a pot and some dirt and planted the watermelon seeds. He nurtured and watered the seeds, until he got wounded and was sent to the hospital.

His battle buddy found the plant while cleaning out his friends hooch after he was injured. He brought it down to the table for sunlight, where he waters it regularly. The watermelon plant is now 3 inches tall and growing here in a war zone, in the middle of the barren desert, inside the wire of Camp Arifjan. There is a sign of life here now. A sign of growth and nature. A thing to be nurtured and cared for and coaxed into creation. A seed of Hope and Faith . A spark in this place of dreary lives and landscapes. A seed is growing in this place. Imagine that, a seed growing, so tiny and fragile.

Growing the way all of life and hope begins, from a tiny seed.

Quite a different world she lives in right now, huh? Pray for her as well, for stamina, creativity, compassion, patience and that she continues to see God’s beauty in such a desolate place.

If you want to read more about Sharon’s journey go here.

Note from Sharon in Kuwait (Part 4)

Laying in bed one morning, peacefully sleeping in my pod/cell/closet and I hear the camp-wide loud speaker screaming…
“Wha, Whaw, WHAW”
“Put on your gas masks. Put on your protective gear.”
“Put on Your Gas Mask! Put on Your Protective gear!”
“PUT ON YOUR GAS MASKS! PUT ON YOUR PROTECTIVE GEAR!

While I am stumbling and fumbling around my pod wondering who is screaming at me and why and where the hell is my gas mask and gear. Wondering if I am dreaming and thinking it may have been a good idea to take the gas mask out of the box and try it on previous to this
insanity. My heart begins to beat a bit faster and I am now fully awake.

The next voice I hear says, “This is an exercise. This is only an exercise.”

What a rude awakening! I cuss to myself and go back to bed. I return to my sleep thinking about what kind of crazy life I got myself mixed up in this time.

More posts about her adventures here.

Sharon in Kuwait – Part 3

Here’s an update from Sharon. I’m pretty far behind on posting her communications, but don’t want to bury you with information, so I’ll continue to inject these as time/space allows. If you want to catch up on previous posts, go here.

From Sharon,
“Yesterday, when I came into work we had a message from a wife who reported that her husband had told her he was wanting to end his life. This is a desperate situation for a soldier with a gun. We began to work on locating this soldier. We found his command in Baghdad about 30 minutes after we received the emergency message. Command will find the soldier and take steps to protect him from himself. I hope we found them in time. I may have made a difference to that one.

Through out my shift I pass messages relating to the death of grandparents, actively dying parents, brothers and sisters in ICU and children’s tragic accidents. Any form of tragedy, illness or death in every form imaginable passes through the Red Cross and we handle the cases for all of Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. We also assist Afghanistan and Iraq by locating service members with a secret security locator program that is supposed to track all service members. Here in Kuwait we pass about 30 emergency communication messages per day.

At the end of my shift yesterday, I was sent a message from Afghanistan that they were having difficulty locating a soldier. The address provided by the family was in Afghanistan, the locator system provided data indicating he was in Kuwait. I was torn on how to focus this search. I made two phone calls here to reliable connections and they did not see him anywhere in the system. The locator system for this soldier had not been updated since April so it was hopelessly outdated and unreliable as a resource. In the meantime his mother was actively dying and I wanted desperately to help him get home before it was too late. It is important! But I did not know where he was and my resources were wearing thin. I made a decision. I believed that since the locator system records for him had not been updated for him since last April, he was probably here when he first came into the theater and had moved out to Afghanistan. I dispatched the emergency message back to Afghanistan with a few more bits of information that I had picked up from the locator system. I hope they found him. I hope he got home in time to see his mother before she died…I hope.

I went home last night with specters of soldiers wandering lost and alone in the desert darkness. I know that this is probably not true, but it feels that way from here sometimes. The Air Force is always able to locate its members, they have a very good system.It takes us only 2-3 calls and as many minutes to locate Air Force service members. The Army has much to be desired in this area. Sometimes it takes as many as 20 hours and as many phone calls to locate an Army Soldier, but 99% of the time we do find them. Sometimes they get to go home and spend the
last few minutes , hours or days with there loved ones or they are able to pay their respects and attend the funeral. It makes a difference to those ones.

Kuwait rewind…
My sister pointed out that I missed posting her entry about Bangor, Maine and since it was one of my favorites, I’m going back to post it. This was when she was on her way from the U.S. to Kuwait. Read the description below, then watch the video. She’s not in it, but it’s an example of what she’s talking about.

November 7th, 2008
After leaving Fort Benning, Freedom Hall, we flew to Bangor, Maine. Upon departing the plane and entering the terminal we encountered a long line of people shaking our hands and offering free cell phone calls home. Men and women of all ages, even a little Cub Scout volunteer to greet the incoming and outgoing soldiers coming in and out of the theater of operations.

As I walked through this line of well wishers I began to cry for the second time today. The dedication of this group of volunteers is astounding. Most all military soldiers depart and enter the US through Bangor Maine. So this is the last and first thing we see in the United States. This group of caring people who have been meeting all planes, every flight, every day for over five years. They call themselves the Maine Troop Greeters. After shaking all their hands, we were invited to the greeters little office in the terminal. There they provide cell phones to call home and say good bye to family and friends before leaving the US. What a gift!!!

Inside their office they have snacks, candy, sandwiches, etc for free for all soldiers and Department of Defense personnel. I called home and left a message and then called my mother(of course). I listened as some of the officers tried to make a donation to the greeters. They refuse any offer of contribution from all soldiers. Their funds come from outside the military circles.

After a couple hours we were loaded back on the plane, all weapons were counted and we were on our way. I would not encourage anyone to contribute to any cause besides the Red Cross, but if one is so inclined to give a little more this would be a good place to contribute. imagine every plane in and out of the US filled with soldiers and support on their way to who knows what, is offered a warm heart, a call home and a full belly that shows them that the people care and are supporting them on their journey. A gift from the heart to the heart. These things make a big difference in a soldier’s journey. Some citizens may not support the war, but we absolutely must continue to support the troops. I must admit that prior to this journey I was not always proud to be an American and I was reluctant to affiliate myself with the military. Today, after my experiences these last 7 weeks, I can say that I have great hope for these United States of America and that the soldiers in our military are great people, each individually bring honor to our country and our lives. God Bless America!

Note from Nancy: Isn’t that amazing! You can read more about the Greeters at the web link above.

By the way, I’ve been posting more than usual lately, and I know everyone’s been busy, so be sure to scroll down to see if you’ve missed anything. I miss seeing your comments.