Friday, October 31, 2014

Celebrate the Small the Things: One Crazy Move

Ah, gee. Where do I begin?

It all started in May with my husband's retirement. A few days later he re-discovered an air park home in eastern WA (we had casually looked at it several months before). This time we were serious. We looked....made an offer, put our house on the market, and by August we were moving into our new home. I wish I could say it was an easy move. It wasn't!

Moving day. "Whew, got that #%$*& treadmill down."
In fact, it was one crazy move. The first offer on our home failed on the day of closing, and it had a snowball effect that left the sellers and buyers reeling, wondering where we were all going to live. Fortunately, we had our camper to live in. Eventually, we rented the home until the deal was finalized. Trust me on this loans are not what they used to be today, even with the best of credit!!! 

 But here is the small thing: no matter where we live, being with someone you love and are loved by makes all the difference in the world. It's true. Home really is where the heart is. Even when we thought we would have to rent a dump and put everything in storage, we never lost our sense of humor. At times all we could do was laugh. 

It took two large u-hauls, two trucks, one camper,
one boat and three cars to haul our stuff!

Some new views.....
Sentinal Gap
New home
Priest Dam Lake (Columbia River)
So here we are, loving our new home and adjusting to a new community, landscape and climate. I DO love it, but feeling like such a newbie sometimes, I do not have a handle yet on what is normal here or what to expect. The locals tell me that the 107 degree heat wave this summer was even too hot for them, and it really does get cold in the winter. But temperatures are still in the 60's. Now that's nice....REALLY nice.

 Judging from the golf cart parade we see in front of our home almost every morning, it appears there is a golf cart in our future. We are not golfers, but live next to a beautiful 18-hole golf course. More to my liking is the lake a five minute walk away and the bike trails. Of course, my husband would say having a hangar for his plane trumps all. 

Hmm....this works.

View from hangar. Our wind sock sits on a small sage brush hill.
Sunsets are glorious here.

Now to finish unpacking....just a few more boxes
to go.....those smaller items that require thought and organization. Where is that printer paper, and does one really need all those pens and pencils? Goodness, I had no idea we were such collectors. I do have my writing desk up and running again, and it feels oh so good to have a place to write again.  

Happy Halloween everyone! 

Not my favorite holiday, but I do love seeing the kids. We bought way too much candy for two people, so I hope we get a crowd! What do you do for Halloween?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nancy Drew Diaries - Sabotage at Willow Woods: Book Review

Nancy Drew Diaries: Sabotage at Willow Woods

Author: Carolyn Keene
Publisher: Aladdin, 2014
Age: 8-12, Middle Grade fiction
Pages: 167

Not everyone in Nancy’s community is in favor of the new sports arena proposed for Boylestown High School (BHS). The cost not only detracts from academics, the proposed location would destroy beautiful Willow Woods. Already BHS’s Green Club has voiced a protest. Meanwhile, Carrie Kim, a candidate running for city council and cousin of Nancy’s good friend George, has vowed to make the arena a reality. Nancy, George, and another friend Bess become involved when Carrie is sent two threatening notes, including a box containing a dead squirrel. Nancy is almost certain the Green Club is responsible, and while undercover, determines that club member Barney is the instigator. Nancy goes to the police and has Barney arrested. However, Nancy could not be more wrong. She then stumbles onto the truth, learning that Carrie’s campaign manager is the real culprit. Barney is exonerated and a new location for the much needed football field is found. Nancy’s nearly perfect boyfriend Ned is supportive through it all. Young readers will adore his comment, “All I ever ask is that you be yourself, Nancy.”

Short diary excerpts help pace this #5 book in the Nancy Drew Diaries series. As typical of a Nancy Drew mystery, the plot of Sabotage at Willow Woods is rather predictable, but having said that, it was comfortable and fun to read. The story is safe for the youngest readers in the 8-12 range and a sure bet for any concerned mom or grandmother looking for a book to give as a gift.   

Copyright 2014 © Sharon M. Himsl

Monday, October 27, 2014

Africa Mercy - We're here! One Nurse's Journey

Madagascar at last! You can really sense Marilyn's excitement as she shares her impressions. A very interesting post. Sharon

(This is a running email post written by a volunteer nurse serving on the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels the African coast).

"We're here!"
26 Oct 2014

At long last, we have arrived to the port city of Tamatave, Madagascar (also known as Toamasina...). The sail from Cape Town was rougher than the previous sail. We never did hit a storm, but some of the rolls reached a tilt of more than 30 degrees, and seas were rough pretty much the whole trip. Restraining straps broke, food splattered, the ship creaked and groaned, and 20 barrels of paint got loose in the paint locker (I hear it was quite a mess in there--very colorful). Fortunately, none of the medical equipment seems damaged, and the crew escaped major injury. We were glad enough to arrive after eight days of "fun" on the high seas.

The captain knows "tricks and shortcuts," and he got us here at
exactly the time we were supposed to arrive. He made up more than 18 hours of delay somehow. The presidential celebration happened pretty much on schedule, and I think it was a good success.

Certainly, we got a lot of publicity out of it, with live TV
coverage as well as news media reports. Hopefully, his "Year of
the Volunteer" received the spark that it needed, too. I saw the
president and prime minister as they came onto the ship for their
tour, but of course, security dictated that most of us had to stay
away from their path.

Today (Sunday), the deck crew are unloading the vehicles, but most of the crew have the day off. Many have walked to town to explore our new surroundings. I got as far as the port gate but turned around and came back. It is HOT and HUMID out there! Next time, I'll set out in the early morning if I want to walk. First
impressions from yesterday and today, though, are of a friendly,
hospitable people who are glad to have us here. Perhaps they won't be as reluctant to come to an unknown ship as they were in Congo when we first arrived.

This first week, we will all be busily working to get things set up
as much as possible. Day crew begin with a general orientation on Friday and will be available to us after that, so we'll spend our second week training our eye team day crew in all the things they need to know. Screening for patients starts November 8, not quite two weeks from now, and the eye program will be underway. Our eye clinic won't be ready for occupancy for at least three weeks, so we have some puzzles to solve on how to get things done. I think that life will remain unsettled and full of surprises and adaptations for yet a little while. But at least, we begin!

Have the last 2 1/2 months been "wasted," since we couldn't begin field service in Benin as planned? Not at all. In waiting and planning, we've developed some new strategies for screening that should serve us well in the future. The era of a big screening
day, involving hundreds of crew and thousands of potential
patients, is past. This year, we will have a screening clinic,
screening about 300 potential patients each day for a month. The
clinic will then relocate to the capital city and screen for a
period of time. After that, we'll see. If the model works well,
they may screen in other cities as well.

Moreover, we heard multiple times yesterday that although the
government and people of Madagascar are delighted that we are here, if we had asked even a couple of months earlier, the answer would have been "It's not the right time." The political situation here is pretty unstable. The current president has been in office for only a few months, and the former president is apparently trying to get back into power. I'm sure there's more to the story, but the point is, thanks to all the twists and turns in our journey, we are here at "just the right time."

I am attempting to learn a few words of Malagasy. Manahoana touku (sp?) means hello to folks in the capital, but manakouri touku (sp?) means hello here in the port city. If you pass in front of someone, especially an older person, you are expected to be polite by saying azafady touku (sp?) while bowing slightly and extending your right hand in the direction you wish to go. Malagasy uses a lot of vowels, and a lot of syllables. The capital city is Antananariva, at least one syllable longer than I seem to be able to pronounce (people call it Tana for short). The president's last name has 19 letters. I'm not even going to try! Patient names are likely to be a challenge, don't you think?

The Madagascar adventure has begun!

Marilyn Neville

[Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy.]

Africa Mercy - Madagascar Here We Come, Part 2: One Nurse's Journey

They are off again! This time the destination is finally Madagascar. I hope they make it in time for the "Year of the Volunteer" celebration. Sharon

(This is a running email post written by a volunteer nurse serving on the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels the African coast).

Madagascar, here we come, part 2
21 Oct 2014

We are now underway, sailing toward Madagascar. Ah, but will we arrive in time? We need to arrive by Saturday morning because the president of Madagascar has planned a gala celebration to kick off his "Year of the Volunteer" campaign, using us as his "poster child." The president, prime minister, all the cabinet members, and many of the ambassadors are coming to the ship Saturday afternoon for a tour and for the event. It wouldn't due to be late!

The captain planned to leave Cape Town last Thursday, sailing for nine days to reach Madagascar early on Saturday morning, leaving us a few hours to get the ship ready for display after the rocky sail. Alas, once again we encountered obstacles. First, it was immigration. They required that we change docks in Cape Town (again) and then bring every one of us individually to their office to be stamped out of the country.

That took hours. During that short sail to change docks, we discovered a new hole in the exhaust of one engine. That had to be repaired before we could leave. (The ship is 35 years old...). Before immigration and repairs were finished, the weather deteriorated. High winds closed the port, and we couldn't leave.

And so, we finally did leave on Friday morning. The captain has been calculating the fastest path, using the currents to his advantage when possible, trying to make up for lost time. Fortunately, we haven't had to contend with any storms. The seas are rougher than they were on the previous sail, but not unmanageable. It's starting to seem normal to hear silverware sliding off the tables and see oranges rolling across the floor. Couches slide, chairs tip over, people fall. Thank goodness the tables are anchored--something to hang onto. A fair number of people are seasick, but so far, I've been OK, thanks to regular medication and occasional trips to deck seven to gaze at the horizon.

As an eye team, we have been meeting to hear the latest updates on the ever-changing plans for field service, and we are beginning to prepare materials for training the day crew once we get there. It looks like it will be a rocky beginning because the advance team simply hasn't had enough time to get everything in order. The eye clinic building, for instance, needs a fair amount of renovation before we can set up our expensive equipment, and they are just now hiring people to do that. It won't be ready as soon as we need Plan B is...and so it goes, every day bringing new information and new difficulties to be solved.

It certainly keeps life interesting.

Eleven weeks ago we were set to sail for Benin. 

It has been a long process of transition as we developed new plans and worked on ironing out the wrinkles. Really, when you look at it, it is extraordinary how things have come together so quickly to go to Madagascar. It usually takes months to work out the protocols with governments; it took five days. Our advance team usually works for 3-6 months getting ready for the ship to arrive; they've accomplished a tremendous amount in 6 weeks, thanks in part to the excellent cooperation of officials at every level. It certainly seems that the Lord has opened doors for us, and we are getting pretty excited to see what lies ahead. Anticipation is becoming electrified in these last days of sailing.

Perhaps next time, I can tell you new things about the wondrous land of Madagascar.


[Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy.]

Africa Mercy - Cape Town: One Nurse's Journey

What a breath of fresh air Cape Town appears to be. Marilyn's observations about the end of apartheid in the area are really encouraging. Sharon

(This is a running email post written by a volunteer nurse serving on the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels the African coast).

Cape Town
4 Oct 2014 Saturday

The rolling seas of my last email are now an ancient memory. We arrived in Cape Town last Monday; it was exciting to see land again...but tantalizing, at first. Due to immigration issues, we weren't allowed off the ship for almost 24 hours after arrival. I heard a rumor--I think it's probably true--that at one point they threatened to put all 350 of us in jail because we moved the ship from the immigration dock to our appointed berth when they quit work for the day on Monday, even though we were all still quarantined on board awaiting their pleasure.

Ah, well, that would have made a news splash, wouldn't it?

On the other hand, the government and the port authorities are certainly rolling out the red carpet for us. The berth they gave us is right on the waterfront, the tourist center of the town. A huge shopping mall, as nice as any mall I've ever seen, is practically on our doorstep.

Outside, there is a beautiful, clean, well-lit promenade all along the waterfront, with little shops and restaurants, street musicians, a ferrous wheel, and crowds of tourists just strolling along. It feels like a carnival, and it's safe enough to wander at will, day or evening.

Plenty of pickpockets, of course, so normal prudence is required. I can certainly see why this is a favored vacation spot for the rich and famous...and for much of Europe, too.

It feels like we are on vacation, but in fact, we are still working as much as ever. I did my last two days in the dining room on Wednesday and Thursday--exhausting, as always. I have the weekend off, and then rejoin the eye team on Monday. I'm not sure what all we will find to do, but I have a feeling that we will stay busy planning the details of the impending outreach in Madagascar and developing the training program for the day crew. At least it will be sit-down work for a while.

Meanwhile, folks higher up in administration have done a terrific job in organizing a whole bevy of tours to increase our footprint in South Africa. For the first several days, we have had invitational tours--one for 150 local pastors, one for Mercy Ship alumni, one for donors who attended a $1000/plate fundraiser luncheon, one for government officials, and some for groups I don't know who they were. Next weekend we will have three days of public tours on a first come, first served basis. They expect a crowd of thousands. There is a lot of publicity and a lot of interest. Everywhere we go, people stop us to ask about Mercy Ships. Is this what it's like to be famous???

Yesterday I had a real vacation day. A friend and I took a bus tour of Cape Town and the surrounding countryside. The buses run on a regular schedule, and you can hop off at any stop, look around, and hop back on the next bus. We spent a couple of hours in the botanical garden, one of the more magnificent gardens of the world. This region has had its own indigenous ecosystem, plants not found anywhere else in the world.

Much of it has been lost through lumbering, but now they are making a concerted effort to preserve and restore. At another stop, we watched seals swimming in the harbor. The bus drove quite a distance along the coast--spectacular beaches and ocean views. The rich and famous live there...

The most interesting and heart-warming stop, though, was to take a walking tour through the Township of Imizamo Yethu, one of the slum settlements that sprang up during apartheid as black people tried to live as close as possible to their jobs in the white community. I think the guide said that 20,000 people live there now. In some ways, it is like West African slums, with crowded ramshackle dwellings, high unemployment, and little material wealth. What is exciting, though, is what has been happening over the last twenty years, since the end of apartheid. This community, made up of multiple tribes, has learned to pull together to improve their lot. The streets are free of rubbish and of the smell of urine. Many houses have running water and electricity, even if the whole house is about the size of a large bathroom at home.

One house he showed us was a very nice home built by a volunteer group from Ireland, I think it was, in 2005. It had tile floors, a refrigerator, it's own bathroom, a TV, a kitchen. What stunned me was this: It had been nine years, and it hadn't been trashed. The guide showed us a school built by some German volunteers. The playground was clean, the equipment was functional. We saw a small library with clean floors, books carefully cataloged and available, children reading.

Again and again, I saw evidence that the people were taking good care of what they had been given. The churches in the community had banded together to build a community center. All sorts of ministry went on there: counseling, drug rehab, sewing projects, micro-business enterprises, job training. In the hour or so of walking through the community, not one person approached us to beg (unless you count the wee girl who asked for a sweetie...). People smiled and met our gaze. You could feel the sense of pride they had in their community--and well they should be proud of the progress they've made!

There is still a huge gap between the very wealthy and the extremely poor people, and their neighborhoods are in close proximity. Of course there are problems with crime. We are advised not to travel anywhere in Cape Town outside the tourist waterfront, except in groups. What is so encouraging, though, is that the country seems to be making a frontal assault on corruption. There are signs everywhere asking people to report it when they see it, and officials aren't asking us for bribes.

It seems to me that if a country can keep from civil war, have their tribes learn to live together in peace (which takes even-handed justice), and stamp out corruption, progress like I saw in Imizamo Yethu can happen, and the nation will be transformed. (There, that's my philosophy for today.)

Time for dinner. More another day.

Blessings, Marilyn

[Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy.]

Africa Mercy - Catch That Plate: One Nurse's Journey

Marilyn's incredible journey continues as they travel to west Africa. The ship is at sea, bound for Cape Town, but the seas are challenging. Sharon

(This is a running email post written by a volunteer nurse serving on the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels the African coast).

"Catch That Plate"
27 Sept. 2014

We are nearing the end of the sail to Cape Town. We have had
smooth sailing and mostly clear weather until two days ago, making it quite an enjoyable interlude despite the long, exhausting days in the dining room. We have a lot of community activities during sails--you'd almost think we were a cruise ship (except, of course, we all work our shifts...). Normally the bow is closed--it's a work space and full of hazards for us non-sailor types--but on the sail, weather permitting, the bow is open for ocean-gazing. One can spend many hours watching for dolphins and enjoying the endless variety of colors in the ocean. On Sunday evenings, we hold our worship service on the bow, weather permitting--a treat that reminds me once again how special this community is, and how blessed I am to be a part of it.

Two days ago, the seas got rougher, as predicted. There is a strong head wind against us, which slows us down some and makes choppy white-capped waves. As I understand it , though, the source of the rough ride has to do with the currents and cross-currents below, and those are a factor of the geography of the ocean floor.

That's why it's always rough around Cape Town, and even worse between Cape Town and Madagascar. In the melodramatic stories of sailing ships rounding the cape, it's always storms that provide the crisis. It's rough enough without a storm...I can only imagine what a storm would be like.
As we go rocking along, we are mostly tilting ten to fifteen degrees, then the same amount the other way. That's enough to cause me to reel in a zig-zag fashion and stop abruptly when I meet the wall. Occasionally, though, we get a more dramatic roll.

Yesterday, at least one registered at twenty-one degrees tilt. Dressers fell over, cabinet doors flew open, and we quickly found out what had been adequately secured for the sail and what had not!

In the galley, food pans slid off their shelves more than once, despite all their precautions. Occasionally all the chairs in the dining room start sliding, occupied or not, not to mention the
plates and cutlery that aren't actively restrained. A few people
have fallen, but no major injuries. Sleep is difficult, with the uneven rocking, and listening to the banging and creaking of the ship. A couple of people are seasick enough to require injections, even IV fluids. I feel fortunate to have had only minor amounts of seasickness, curable with medications and gazing at the horizon for a while to give my inner ears a break. On the other hand, working in the dining room under these conditions is quite a challenge. If this were an airplane, we would be told to sit down and fasten our seat belts, and no dinner would be served...

We will reach Cape Town two days from now, assuming all goes as planned. We never did find an available berth in a dry dock, and I guess they decided that we could live with it until next summer's scheduled repair time. The current plan is to spend about two weeks in Cape Town, mostly doing promotional tours, while we wait for the advance team to work in Madagascar. I hear that Cape Town is a lovely place to visit, so it should be a lot of fun, even while we prepare for field service. Kathryn, the Eye Team Leader, has been planning several scenarios, but of course, everything is still pretty tentative, and will be, until we get there.

Well, I'm having to hang on to the desk occasionally as I type , and I hear something crashing around nearby that should be
investigated. So, enough for now. 

Blessings for all of you. Wish you were's quite an adventure!


[Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy.]

About Me

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You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.