Friday, May 30, 2008

I Leave for Turkey in Less than a Month!

I used to think that short term mission trips benefited mostly the person who went, not the people in the country she goes to. Last year, after seeing 22 Chinese teachers realize for the first time that learning could be fun, I knew that I had not only changed these teachers, but also the lives of their countless students. Hours after I arrived in China, my interpreter introduced me to her friend Joy, and said “Marsh, tell Joy about Jesus.” Joy was intensely curious about my faith. She had heard a lot, but perhaps I answered her questions from a different perspective than her Chinese friends. When Joy came to know Jesus as her savior only four hours after I arrived in China, it was an amazing experience for me, but the person most profoundly changed was Joy. Her life will never be the same. I found the same phenomenon when I was in Japan, and in Albania. People seemed so eager to hear anything I had to share because I had traveled so far to tell them. People shared with me deeply because I was a “safe” person to whom they could share the intimate details of their lives. I believe that one person really can make a difference when she goes to another country, even if it is for a few short weeks.

This year I turned fifty, my 56 year-old brother died suddenly of a heart attack, and my mom also passed away. It has made me realize that my intense desire to make a difference in the world is not something to be put off to a “convenient” point. I want to use whatever gifts and talents I have to further the gospel and to see God work in people’s lives. I see that much of my experience with international travel, cross cultural training, teaching, administration, and Perspectives training at Wheaton over 30 years ago have all led to my ability to lead a team. In response to this I said “yes” to leading an IMPACT team to Turkey from June 23 to July 18. IMPACT is the Presbyterian organization that arranges short-term journeys, working around the world with people who are already in these countries. IMPACT returns to the same places year after year, so it has a “long term” feel to it.

In the mornings we will be working near Antalya at a center where women come for help. We will be cooking with them, teaching them crafts like cross stitch, giving them clothing, and counseling with them. In the afternoons we will work with disabled young people at a camp or rehab center. While I can’t promise not to have fun, it is not a vacation! I am heading a team of 5 women and one teenage young man, so there is the element of reaching out to the Turkish people, and also being a servant to my team members.

Before I left, I had no idea how significantly China would affect my life and my thinking. The China journey led to the Albania journey, which led to the Turkey journey. I have no idea what will happen in Turkey, but I get a sense of remarkable changes to come because of how drawn I feel to go.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Celebrating our Hard-Working Veterans by Being Lazy

I spent the day doing whatever I felt like. I surfed the Internet, read a good book (Whose Land? Whose Promise?, about Israel), took a walk (and listened to an episode of This American Life), quilted, had lunch with my dad, napped, watched TV, and downloaded stuff to my new Ipod. I thought about how nice it would be to always have Mondays off. Um, wait, I did have Mondays off until this year. Then I started working five days a week, and immediately got a 20% raise. So, while I would like having Mondays off again, (sigh), I also like being able to pay my medical bills without flinching, and being able to replace my appliances when they all break at once. Happy Memorial Day. I’m thankful to all who fought to give me freedom.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Someday I'm going to have time to grieve. I feel sad about my mom's and brother's deaths, but most of the time I seem to be just trying to deal with one life circumstance after another. My own medical problems are over, but after I returned from San Luis Obispo, and went through a day of leader training for Turkey, my #3 daughter became very ill. We spent Sunday in the ER. She had a high fever and extreme pain from her esophagus from just below her throat to her stomach. They are continuing to run tests to find a diagnosis, and M. continues to feel horrible. She spends the few minutes that she feels well scanning the Internet, and is convinced she has some horrible, life-threatening, terminal disease. “But I DO have it. The symptoms are the same!” My heart aches for her. She is in great pain not only physically, but emotionally, as well. May God give her the peace and healing she needs.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Trying to be Kind, But New at Blogging Ettiquette

Over a decade ago, I accidentally hurt a friend. He took what I said wrong and then waited over a year to tell me. When I explained what I had meant, he understood, and we were straight again. It was a misunderstanding that could have easily been cleared up if he had said something immediately. I wish he had. At the same time, a coworker filed a grievance against me through our union for an innocent statement I made that she took wrong. Later, everyone involved, including that woman, agreed that I had intended the statement as a compliment, and that she misconstrued it, and blew it out of proportion. She should have just come to me and said "What did you mean by that?" After that I went through a period where I carefully watched every word I said. I was extremely careful to analyze whatever I said and to make sure that nothing offensive came out of my mouth. My personality changed. I think people sensed my defensiveness. They knew I wasn't being my authentic self. I think God made me to be a forthright, open and direct kind of person. I try to be uplifting and encouraging and positive. I'm gregarious. I know that my outgoing personality offends more people than if I was quiet and shy. That's why the blog worries me. I know that although I intend it to be a kind blog, people who appear in it, may take it wrong. They may be embarrassed or offended, even when I mean it for good. Like my post about the teachers I work with. I meant it to be uplifting. They took it that way. But if they didn't would they say so? When something is written, it's risky. Or it's boring. My other alternative is to write neutral posts. "Weather's great here in Ventura. Yes, siree. Sunny." I have to just hope people will be honest when I've mistakenly hurt them.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Congratulations Sweet Daughter

I drove to San Luis Obispo with my dad yesterday to see BKP win two awards from the Orfalea School of Business. She was one of 12 students in the Business College to graduate Summa Cum Laude. Additionally she was recognized as the Most Outstanding Graduating Student in International Business. A high honor indeed. We are so proud of her. She is graduating in three years, without summer school, with an almost 4.0 GPA. Her professor talked about how BKP's extensive background in foreign travel helped her bring a fresh perspective to her classes. BKP not only asked thought-provoking questions, but also brought humor to classes that really needed humor. The professor told how BKP had completed one quarter in Thailand and also studied Mandarin in China, and told how her grandpa had owned his own business and was an inspiration to her. That made my dad cry. By the end of this long speech BKP was a little wobbly. She had just gotten her wisdom teeth pulled that morning, and although her teeth were fine, her stomach was not! She has plenty of wisdom, and the drive and discipline to succeed in life. What's the use of having a blog if you can't brag about your kids, right?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Future Roomie

Today I got together with KW, the newly hired ECHS teacher, who will share my classroom next year. I am excited about teaming with her because she is an amazing teacher, and I think I will learn a lot next year. I have loved working with TS, whom I share a room with now. TS is more fun than anyone else in my life. She's a joke a minute. She adores the students, and they adore her. She calls the students "goobers" if they don't do their work. She told a parent "I don't have enough duct tape to keep your child here." When the students try to cross her, she says "You don't mess with the fat lady." Once she told a student "If you don't bring work next week, I'm going to skip nagging and go straight to execution." But she said it so lovingly. TS is a Mensa member, (which means she's incredibly smart), and she knows how to get the kids to understand the information. Every once in awhile you hear funny noises coming from that side of the room, and it's TS watching some Internet video and dying laughing. She's the kind of teacher you wished you had in high school instead of that woman with orthopedic shoes.

KW is almost the opposite. If TS is a Beach Boys concert, KW is the symphony. She's classy, driven, creative, and quality all the way. As I get to know KW I realize how much alike we are. She's practical, and organized. She uses comics in her teaching. I put a comic on every test for my students. She loves to travel, and in a weird quirk of fate, she's going to Istanbul this summer about the same time as I am. She has passion and high expectations for her students. I think she's like me in that she speaks honestly and you know where she stands. When I asked if she cared where her desk went in the new room, she said "Oh, I'll have an opinion!" I love that. Today we went through her room, where for years, she has lovingly collected beautiful books, games, art supplies, and activities that are perfect for teaching middle school social studies. Very few things could actually be used for teaching independent study high school. The middle school standards end at the Civil War, and we start after Reconstruction. We don't really do whole class games and art projects. I can see how it would be sad for her to walk away from all this that she has spent years building. And that's just the stuff. The friendships run deep, too. Our mutual friend, MW, is also moving to the high school level, so they wouldn't be together next year even if KW did stay. They won't see each other daily like they do now. We vowed to all get together next year. But it won't be easy for KW to leave a school where she has deep roots, even if ECHS is the BEST place to work.

The Mailman Made my Day

I like getting the mail. Not that I actually get any personal letters. I am such an incredibly nice person that sometimes I get thank you notes in the mail, but it's not like the pre-Internet days when I would get a three page handwritten letter filled with stories from a friend delivered by Pony Express. OK, maybe not the Pony Express, but I did used to get actual handwritten letters several pages long. The reason I like to get the mail now is that the mailbox is almost empty. A year ago I was receiving glossy catalogues from L. L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, Pottery Barn and about a gazillion other places dying for me to spend money. And I think a whole forest was cut down to keep the credit offers coming to me. ("This is our 600th letter to her. I feel lucky this time.") There were letters from charities, alumni associations, hotel chains, timeshares, appliance companies, educational organizations, department stores, and real estate agents. The other day my letter carrier asked "Did you do something to your mail?" He noticed!!!! A year ago I started feeling guilty about all the waste paper my mailbox was generating, and I began writing to companies to take me off their lists. I have it down to a quick routine. Open the Word document template, enter address, pop out the letter and envelope, staple the part with my address and send. And it stopped! Now there's only a few letters in the box. And with the time I've saved dealing with the mail, I'm going to invent a cure for cancer. Right after I sit down and write some long, heartfelt letters.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

His and Her Blogs

Today I interviewed 13 people for the job opening at my school. This is just the number of people who made it through the paper screening, not all the people who actually applied. Because we are moving to the college, more people have heard about us and want to work at, what I consider, the best job in the district. I came home exhausted from the interviews, and had about an hour off to relax before I went back out to an Italy meeting. I flopped on the couch, and my husband said "Did you read my blog?" He wrote exactly one entry 16 months ago, and I haven't exactly been checking it every day since then. "No." An hour later, as I'm walking out the door he said "Did you read the blog?" I hadn't. He was so eager for me to read his blog, but he doesn't read mine. He says he reads my blog, but I don't think he really does. He says he subscribes to it in Google Reader. If you are reading this, Honey, you can prove it by letting me know you read this entry about your blog, or by leaving a comment. He is a great writer, and I like his musing about his second office (a local coffee place); but all writers like to know someone is reading their stuff.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Flaws and Skills

One of my children has pointed out two of my flaws. I often say I'm sending an attachment, and then I forget to attach the document. And if bags have a built-in plastic zipper, I never see the zipper and inevitably open the bag from the wrong end so the zipper is unusable. I'm just not good at attachments and zippers. Oh, well. At my funeral they will say "She was an amazing mother, a fabulous wife, and an inspiring teacher. If only she could have learned to open plastic bags correctly."