Monday, October 22, 2012

Georgie and Lessons Learned

Today was quite a day. Well, let's start from the beginning and I'll tell you what I mean...

I woke up after a TON of really terrible nightmares just really not wanting to have another day. I honestly can't remember anything much except for an epic ice cream feast, but I was never satisfied with it. Pretty sure I know what that part means... I miss ice cream. I avoided the mint chocolate chip though, which meant its wasn't from my favorite place in Tenerife;) I remember something about being chased and something about being responsible for a small child, but that's most of my dreams. Something last night really struck a chord with me- it wasn't good. As I sat thinking about it earlier I almost busted into tears. Something wasn't good or right in the dream. I'm a bit intuitive, so dreams can really either make my day or mess it up. Often, dreams are indicative of the way things are going with either me or a loved one. I woke up knowing something wasn't right, but that's not the way I wanted to start my Monday. I was out sick on Friday and I really just wanted to hit the ground running strong this morning, not thrown off. Instead of slumping around, I wound up just saying a little prayer. I honestly don't remember much about it- I was still 1/2 asleep, but I asked God to just be with me today. Not for a great day, not for this or this or this, just that he'd be with me.

I got up to work and normally I'm not too happy when I get there. I roll out of bed, pull myself together and get up there just in time to be 'on time'- sometimes unsuccessfully. Today I was meant to go to our weekly meeting, but my body just wasn't having it- it was telling me I was still exhausted, so I let myself sleep a little longer. I got up JUST in time today. I got up to work and found myself... tired, but happy. I've hit a wall lately where I just don't feel especially helpful. I've been having a hard time finding joy in my work, thus giving others a little bit of attitude. Sorry for anyone at the end of that- it wasn't personal. I've just been a mess. Between being sick and personal struggles, the past month has been a whirlwind. Today would've been no different, but it was...

Things just seemed better... I would say I can't explain it, but I think I can. God was with me. All day long. Things at work honestly...SUCKED... things were a mess from the weekend. I was still frustrated, but not really angry. Just sad that things haven't worked out right and frustrated, but not angry like normal. God helped me address issues to some people with more grace than normal- more patience and willingness to keep an even head. I just... honestly I just felt like God was really making today what it was. There was time during work that I could be a little silly with my co-worker researching potential Christmas presents for a friend, chatting it up with my wonderful day worker Habi and just enjoying reception, but also lots of work got done... it was refreshing. I left knowing I got things done but I enjoyed my day. JOY came to me:)

It didn't stop there. I felt led to do something tonight, that I won't put into detail cuz it's kinda a secret, but a friend was under a lot of pressure today and I felt the need to just go and pray for her for a while. I'm still not sure of the result, but I'm sure he was all over it. I had an idea of how I wanted that to go, but it turned into me praying for them instead of being there supporting them physically... I can't explain it, but I really did feel that's why I was there...took me about 10 minutes to realize it, but once I did, it was really cool:)

Then, I had dinner(yummy fish and chips), got my hair trimmed up real nice(it's getting so long!) and then I was on my way to my room around 7pm. I was thinking 'wow... a whole evening to myself.. what shall I do?' Yes- sometimes I speak in ye olde English to myself;) Before I even put my key in the lock, I knew what I was going to do. I turned around and went straight down to the ward. Now, 7pm isn't TECHNICALLY visiting hours, but I know that by then dinner is over. The main reason we are to come between 7:30-8:30 is because the patent's personal visitors come from 6:30-7:30, and it kinda busts into their time if you come early. But tonight, I popped down to see if it was okay. I went to A ward first where I met up with my sweet boy Yaya who was  cutting something up, a new kiddo who LOVES making paper chains- the ward was COVERED in them- definitely adds a certain flare to the space:), and my sweet baby Mamadou, who is the brother of Aicha who is a patient. I just love this little one. We've grown to love each other- he just lights up each time I come to hang out with him.  This is where things started coming to mind...

I was holding my sweet boy and just messing around playing with him when his mama, sister and some others on the ward just started talking rapid fire and laughing hysterically. The thought crossed my mind, "Are they talking about me?" Then I began to think about it... I have choices... I could storm out in assumption they are and let that be that.... nothing of course being solved as I have 0 clue what they were actually talking about, or I could just keep going on. It made me think of Jesus. He KNEW what people were saying, yet he loved the people SO much that he just kept on going and loving them despite what they said. Really in all honesty, what they were saying probably had NOTHING to do with me, but these thoughts creep in from time to time.

Then I went over to B ward. I saw my sweet George. George was in traction for weeks and weeks, meaning his legs needed to be suspended and pulled by weights for a certain number of hours a day to re-adjust his hips to the right rotation for him to have surgery. Last week I was told he was ready for surgery for Friday. He was in the ICU for a couple days- probably just to control his pain and keep him comfortable more than anything, so I wasn't allowed to see him. Yesterday I went to see him, but he was really upset. He wanted something, but I couldn't figure out what it was for a long time. Once I did, it was time for me to leave. I left hoping someone would get him his book shortly thereafter, but not knowing if he'd get it or fall asleep out of frustration first. Today, I walked in and a nurse said, "Is George your befriend-a-patient" and I said, "No... I just like to visit him from time to time". Then she said, "Well great- we're doing a craft- do you want to help him with his?" Here's where the next lesson began...

Georgie(as I affectionately call him... sometimes Georgie Porgie) was given a balloon to work on(the first smile I've seen of him since Thursday), as I worked on assembling the rest of the 'mobile'- made of popsicle sticks, string and pipe cleaners with balloons attached to the bottom. He tried and tried and tried to get the balloon inflated. He got it semi-inflated after a few extremely strained tries, which made me smile because it was so cute, but I offered help. He stubbornly shook his head 'no!' each time I offered to help and kept trying. I started cheering him on instead of resisting him. He'd get the balloon inflated, then try to find a way to close the opening to keep the air in, but each time he was unsuccessful. Eventually I took the balloon from him and he threw a FIT. I gave him a blue balloon, but he wanted his red one back... he did NOT want the blue... I'd already tied the red and he threw it as far as his little arms would let him and resisted the blue. I walked away for 1 minute to go get another red balloon in hopes it'd calm him, but he was on to the blue. I slipped the red into my pocket, realizing he'd moved on. But the blue was just too hard for him to blow up. After a few struggled tries, he looked up at me with his sweet little eyes and was begging me with them to blow it up. We don't speak the same language after all- our facial expressions are our language:) I kept saying that I couldn't blow up his blue one because he'd slobbered all over it, but I went to get another one. One was too hard for me to blow up(which wasn't part of the lesson- so omit it, but I grabbed a new blue one, he let me blow it up and we completed the mobile. His face lit up. I tried hanging it up and he freaked out and demanded he hold it instead of hang it up.... he was so happy when I surrounded him with the balloons and he was blowing the new red one up too. That's where I left him for the evening.

Now, this is what came to my mind as this was happening... I was thinking how much I'm like Georgie. How much I want to be in control of my own life. How much I want to be the one doing everything and controlling the result. Yeah, things don't always go great, but I try again and again until I get it. But the whole time, I have a loving Father looking at me saying, "Oh Michelle, just let me help you, sweetie! Come on.. okay.... keep trying.. YOU CAN DO IT! COME ON MICHELLE!! Oh.. and it didn't happen again... come on.. let me help..." But, I'm too stubborn. He's been working on this great thing for me that I'm going to LOVE in the end, but all I can focus on is this little bit- the balloon-  that I can't seem to get right. If I would just ask Him for some help, he wouldn't do it FOR me, but he'd show me how to do it- he'd get me through it and in the end he'd give me something I just love.
My Georgie
Photo Cred. to Deb Louden
Every time I mess up, I get frustrated and throw a fit. Every time I lose something that I thought was going to be a part of my life, I lose it- so upset as to why it's not anymore- why something I thought was going to be instrumental is gone. Why relationships I'd formed are suddenly dissolving, why lessons I'd thought I'd learned are re-surfacing, why I feel like I'm still an infant but by the world's standards I should be walking without much help by now.. Things I'd hoped disappear.

The verse 'Hope deferred makes the heart sick' has been on my heart a lot lately... so many hopes I've had over the last few months have just disappeared into nothingness- most of the time without anyone even knowing they existed but me. This is true that it does make the heart sick, but we're not in this alone. Every time I feel overwhelmed and just at odds, I remember I have someone that's there for me even when every single one of my 'people' let me down. I see friends of mine going through serious trials and I think, "wow... how do you even get up in the morning without knowing that someones got your back". And yes- even while watching my TV shows, I notice how empty people's lives are and I think... man...if only you looked deeper and not to each other, but to God who is the only one who will never let you down... Isn't that great? I love it:) It's what makes a terrible day worth seeing through because no matter what has happened, God is still there. Jesus still wraps his arms around me and comforts me. I am too stubborn to accept it sometimes, but he's ALWAYS there... Thank God.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Support Video

Check out my support video!:) It was made for my church, but goes out to all of you :)

To donate go here:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Little Things...

My mom called the other night and we were chatting about Jordan's school. She then shared this story, which totally made my day. Kids say things that they don't realize can really impact others, but boy do they...

My mom was with Jordan at Back to School night. He's in KINDERGARTEN now- can you believe it?!!?!?  She went over to his desk and said, "Oh, Jordan, that drawing is BEAUTIFUL! I can't wait to hang it up in the house". He looks up at my mom and says ,"No, Nana, we're going to sent that to Shell in the mail!!"

Is that not the sweetest thing EVER? He's 5 and thought of sending something to me, which I know he knows I LOVEEE:)

The Best. Brings a smile to my face even when I'm sick:)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Stop... movie time....

I thought while I'm laid up I might as well try to offer you guys a bit of a fun post.

For those wondering- I came down with some pretty severe headaches starting about 10 days ago, with them getting markedly worse around 1 week ago and were on and off bad until Monday, when it just got really bad. I woke up thinking I wasn't feeling great because it was, well, Monday... I hate mornings and I hate Mondays especially when I have to be up in the morning...:) But this Monday, I not only was exhausted after a very restful weekend, but had a splitting headache paired with nausea and stomach pain... OH and I was supposed to start training a new receptionist.... bad timing, right?

I've been forced into bed rest with some pretty strong drugs, which still havent gotten rid of the pain, unfortunately, and the only thing my body really allows me to do is watch things on my laptop. A few times, I haven't even been able to do that, but for the last couple days I've been able to. I thought I'd be back to work by now, but each time I try to think about going back, my body tells me otherwise... so... I thought I'd tell you about some of the fun movies I've watched:)

First(once I gave up on watching Grey's 24/7- a night the internet was really slow), I watched THE GOONIES!! I've only seen it twice before but I LOOVEE the Goonies! SO Classic. I do, however, have a problem with the way it's advertised. Most would see the cover and rating and say, "wow.. what looks like a great KIDS film.." Oh boy could it be any more misleading.... the language alone could make that movie way outta line for any kid, but also the innuendos and the violence... dannng is it not appropriate. It's a scary movie for kids and I don't think kids need to hear all the language- we all know how kids love to latch on to new and strange words... hm. It's a really fun adventure movie though.:)

The next day, I watched The Spiderwick Chronicles. Super fun movie!!! I mean... anything with Mary Louise Parker is pretty much top notch in my book- she's one of my favorite actresses- but this movie really captures the imagination. It's about a mom who takes her kids to a home one of her family members left to her. One of the kids discovers a book that tells all about the different creatures that live in the woods, but by discovering the book, he unleashes a whole realm of fairies  both good and evil. The evil are after the book and will stop at nothign to get it. I guess for kids it might be a bit scary- with goblins and such, but I had a lot of fun watching it! :)  I didn't see anything else wrong with the movie other than the scary parts and some talk of the parents splitting because of some of the father's poor choices.

Then, I started Meet the Robinsons. I thought the beginning was super cute and fun, but once you meet the family- the movie lost me and I turned it off... WAYY too confusing for me...

Hulu started working again(WE HAVE HULU THIS YEAR!!!!) So I got sucked back into the world of Grey's. Now, some of you might wonder what I think is so great about Grey's. In the beginning, Grey's was okay, but not great-lots of very superficial and surface-level characters, who I hope woudn't exist in real life. The thing I liked in the beginning were the individual plots- the patients mostly. They were always pretty great in my book- interesting and kept you on the edge of your seat.... or kept the tears flowing. As the seasons have gone on, however, I've found the creators have become pure masterminds. They've made these characters very real and very 3 dimensional. They've made lives for them and given them sheer depth(most of the time). You love to see how they react to this situation or that and how they cope with this kind of patient or this life problem, who they fall in love with, etc. Defiantly not all realistic, but it's fun. They all kinda become family to you after a while... you grow to love them. With that being said, a peeve I have of the creator is that they love to bring in new characters and make you fall in love with them, then they kill them off... REALLY?!?!? That's so not real life. Not that I want them to kill any of my beloved main characters, which they've done enough already, but... just saying.. really?

Then tonight, I was able to watch 'We Bought A Zoo'. I had started watching it a while back with some of my kiddos, but we didn't get to finish it, let alone get 30 minutes into it:) Now, it's yet another movie that I'm not sure is really a kid movie- they advertise it as such, but its' got quite a lot of language and innuendo... I guess it depends on who the kid is and how much they understand... but it is a FANTASTIC movie... like.. truly well done. The last scene caught me off guard and made me BAWL... anyone else? Beware- it gets you. I felt a little bit crazy but held onto hope that i"m not the only one who bawled:)

So.. that's how I've been spending my sick days... hoping to move into the book realm soon as the headaches hopefully taper off. I've been given off until Monday. It's a ship holiday, so I would've had Friday off anyway, but I think all of this is a sign to take it easy and to let my body heal slowly but surely. Saturday I may try to get to the orphanage that I had the joy of going to last week- so amazing- probably 15 little ones- mostly under the age of 4 and just so wonderful and full of life. 1 is being adopted by a family in the states!!  A wonderful joy that I hope I get to experience for weeks and weeks to come:) 

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Window Inside

I thought I'd let you have a glimpse of what things have been going on in my mind lately- a window into my life, if you will...

The other day, as I was settling into bed, I wrote a journal entry that went something like this...

"I am also all kinda of homesick. I miss cooking, I miss baking, I miss DRIVING, I miss going out with friends, I miss cuddling up with JO, I miss my living room, I miss choices, I miss my friends, I miss having a paycheck, I miss my Sundays, I miss having jam sessions, I miss having somewhere to walk/run, I miss big pools, I miss ellipticals, I miss seeing shows(theatre), I miss eating healthy things that actually taste good, I miss unchlorinated water, I miss netflix... really it's all the little things I miss about being home... all material things for the most part...."

I thought up some more today..

I miss fall, I miss unchlorinated water of 2 kinds- I'm tired of feeling like I'm drinking and bathing in pool water, I miss singing at the top of my lungs in the car, I miss having a comfortable place to read, I  miss playing my music as loud as I want, I miss watching a movie with no chance of being interrupted by another person, and alarm, or a power outage.

But, at the end of the day today, I'm finding myself thinking, "I love my life". I thought of my journal entry from just days ago, and the different things I've missed recently and thought, "I wouldn't trade these moments for the world. The snuggles, the smiles, the hugs, the laughs, the funny faces, the shrieks of joy, those momentary smiles through tears, those drugged-up crazy moments with those beautiful patients. Speaking Krio again, thinking like a 4 year old, telling someone I don't think their cleft was the fault of a curse that was put on their mother and telling them not to care what other people say about her face, the moment of hope in my soul praying that she will hold on to my words- that she's beautiful and that God had a reason when he made her like this, giving a mama a squeeze of the hand in hopes she'll smile for a moment today, snuggling a 2 month old and praying he has hope for an amazing life, hoping these sweet faces will have a chance once they leave- that they will have a bright future and use their experience to see God- the TRUE God, the LIVING God, not the God their society has told them is the truth. I wouldn't trade my incredible friends, who God has given me for this season who have walked me through some seriously dark times, whether they realized it or not, being scared all through the day by my  favorite 7 year old, being called 'auntie' or 'drama mama' by my kids, who are sincerely disappointed that I may not be on board for Mother's day so they can give me presents next year, the students who make me CRAZY but who also make me laugh and give me 1 time of day that I look forward to and truly enjoy- the moment I get to teach them about a passion of mine and hope they catch a spark of how amazing acting can be for anyone, enjoying evenings watching movies with friends, Zumba with over 30 people on a ship, finding the little pleasures we DO have and loving every moment of them(cinnamon sugar in coffee- EPIC idea), being excited because it's Crepe Monday or Waffle Friday, seeing people through problems big and small at work, being USED for something far bigger than myself."

 Being with the patients reminds me every time why I'm here. When I leave them, I feel full of love and feel ready to take on the world. They are the reason God brought me here- if I forget that, I'm doomed to a world of self-pity and resentment toward being here at all. Those amazing, strong, courageous patients are why we're all here- to give them a chance at life and hope for an incredible future.

Much of me feels that my time on the Africa Mercy is coming to a close. This can be either a death sentence or a huge blessing. It can be 'oh my gosh I have 8 months left... WHHY.. I want to go home' or it can be "wow, I've got only 8 more months to soak up every amazing bit of what I"m a part of as I can. I know for a fact God is seriously stretching and teaching me, which can be really hard at times- especially in a place where you can't ever be alone to pray, cry, scream- whatever you need to do to get it all out. But the little things I've already learned are HUGE leaps from where I was and I'm really looking forward to what God's got up his sleeve for me. He's really shown me that without him- I'm nothing. I am weak, insecure, insignificant, but with Him, I am loved, important, and can truly make a difference. It's so easy to say "Woe is me, Woe is me" but really I should be saying, "Who am I that God has chosen me to be on this INCREDIBLE adventure of a life and has given me such amazing gifts all around to top it all off- true gems of friendship all around" Thank you, God. Let's make the next 7-8 months INCREDIBLE. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Check it out

For those following, I've updated my fundraising site with a story and all. Check it out!:)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

You Know Me

I wanted to post, but have so much I want to say. So, I thought I'd keep it brief and simple tonight. This song has been my theme the last few weeks. It's hit deep down in the depths of my struggles as of lately, which have been extensive, grueling, and extremely difficult. But, despite it all, my God is with me every step of the way and at the end, I will come out a much stronger and more Christ-like woman. Thank God for that.

I first heard this song while sitting on deck during the sail, grappling with God about a bunch of things, and this was his song- just for me.
You Know Me
By Bethel  Featuring Stephanie Frizzel
You have been
And You will be
You have seen
And You will see

You know when I rise and when I fall
When I come or go, You see it all
You hung the stars and You move the sea,
And still You know me

Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh, You know me
Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

You have been
And You will be
And You have seen
And You will see

You know when I rise and when I fall
When I come or go, You see it all
You hung the stars and You move the sea,
And still You know me

Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh, You know me
Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

And nothing is hidden from Your sight
Wherever I go, You find me
And You know every detail of my life
And You are God and You don't miss a thing

And nothing is hidden from Your sight
Wherever I go, You find me
And You know every detail of my life
And You are God and You don't miss a thing

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I have been getting a LOT of Israel questions- it's about stinkin' time I tell you about it, huh?


Sorry for the delay in this. To be quite honest, Satan has really been working to get me down lately, and has unfortunately succeeded on many levels. The arrows started flying in Israel, but I was able to ward most of them off because I had a pretty great support system there. I wasn't quite so upfront about my issues there, but I had a friend who was extremely intuitive and really spoke into things in my life without knowing they were issues... and the first time we met was on the trip. That really helped me, but coming back to the ship was a shock to the system. Everything in my life has been changing quickly and Satan has been firing some fierce rounds of arrows at me, and quite a few have driven extremely deep. Thankfully, I have some awesome friends and support around me... even if they are thousands of miles away...Thank God for phones:) A few people really spoke into the situations I was experiencing, and I'm still not 100%, but I'm sure in a better place than I was 2 days ago. Thanks to anyone who was praying for me- and please keep the prayers coming. I think I ticked Satan off by going to Israel, but I don't regret it one bit.

So... let's start from the top...

I went to Israel for 2 weeks through a school called JUC(Jerusalem University College), which is an american-based christian college that is found on today's Mount Zion. It is literally JUST outside the old city walls and about a 5 minute walk from Zion Gate and about 7 minutes from Jaffa Gate. I don't think I could've picked a better location. The school itself is a piece of art- gardens filled with pomegranate trees and grape vines... totally incredible. The only thing someone could've had against it was the lack of AC, but I was used to a cabin that hit about 95 degrees F at night, so this was a nice change for me- windows open and a fan going we were set.

After my crazy adventures in Madrid, I got to the campus just about dead- starving, hungry and exhausted. Dead may be an exaggeration, but I sure didn't feel like it was at that moment. I passed out for 3 hours, then had a MASSIVE lunch, then we were off. We went exploring the Old city, went to the wailing wall, and just got a feel for it. I'm so glad I did, otherwise I would've slept all day and been miserable. This was a perfect precursor for the trip. Thankfully one of our group had been to Israel many times before and was our tour guide for the afternoon.

Now, I was invited to go along by a woman who works on board, Susan, who has been multiple times with this school along with her daughter, Carys. Our 'Mercy Ships' group consisted of 13 of us- 8 current crew- all long term, 3 who are alumni, and 2 who come back on a yearly basis, though are not currently on board. We had 2 mother-daughter-duos, a married couple, and the rest of us are singles.It was truly a really great group... all ages, backgrounds, from the US, the DR, South Africa, Switzerland... super great. THEN, we met up with about 35 others, who were from Northwestern University, Crown College and a group with Campus Ministries.  I didn't get to know those people all that well, but the relationships I did make on that trip were pretty incredible and a lot of fun:)

For the 2 weeks, I was totally blessed to live with a mother-daughter from South Africa, Leanne and Jordy. They were just so sweet and caring and really took time to get to know me and we had some pretty great conversations... the trip wouldn'tve been as great as it was had it not been for them... I didn't know them before the trip, but I definitely think I'll see them again one day.... totally awesome:)

Now for the places... oh man.. you ready for this???? I'll list off the places we visited. If you want to know more about any of them- inquire- I'll answer, maybe even write a blog about it;) I just dont know what you are interested in hearing about...

Day 1: The Old City- Visited most of the gates, The Upper Room, Wohl Museum, Pools of Bethesda, Church of St. Anne, Muslim Cemetary, Overlook of the Mt. of Olives, Via Dolorosa, Church of the Holy Seplechure, then late in the night we went to the Western Wall Tunnels(EPIC!!)

Day 2:  Parables taught by Rabbi Mosche, The Good Samaratin Inn and we hiked in Setaph(Loveddd that)

Day 3: The Temple Mount and a free afternoon(we went to the Holocaust Museum)

Day 4: Qumran, Cave #11, Masada, En Gedi(swam in a fresh water spring), Old Synagogue, Dead Sea and the Negev Desert(the Wilderness)

Day 5: Mount of Olives, Dominus Flavit, Gethsemane, Garden Tomb, Israel Museum(didn't like that one at ALL), Herodium(awessome), a threshing floor, Bethlehem, Hill of Evil Council(view of Jerusalem from the South)

Day 6: Day off(well, 1/2 day off..)!!!! Went to the mall- Mamilla, where we had lunch, then I shopped around a while, then a lecture by Gabi Barclay... went RIGHT over my head...

Day 7: Trip to Galilee: Nazareth(the Leaping Hill), Sepphoris, Jotapata(love that word), Church of the Annunciation(MY FAVORITE CHURCH BY A LONNNG SHOT), and to get there, we traveled through the Sharon Valley, Jezreel Vally, saw Mt. Tabor and a tonnn of other awesome things.First time in the Sea of Galilee, stayed at En Gev

Day 8: Gamla, Quazrin, Har Bental, Cesarea Phillipi, where we got to go on an INCREDIBLE nature hike and see Herod Agrippa II's palace, finished off by Omrit.... some more swimming in the sea and stayed at En Gev

Day 9 : Boat ride, Boat Museum, Church of the Primacy, Tabgah, Mt. of Beatitudes, Chorazim, Capernaum, Bethsaida, more swimming- last night at En Gev, then the event I call the Parable of the Lost Ring.... I'll write that story for you some day;)

Day 10: Trip back to Jerusalem, which included: Kursi, Jordan River sighting, Tiberius, crazy fireee!, Bet Sha'an, Jordan River Baptismal- put my feet in... kinda gross, but cool, New Jericho

Day 11: Mt. Gerezim, Jacob's Well(loveedd), Samaria Sabaste, Cesarea(LOOOVEEDDD). Last day of classes

Day 12: Departure meeting, Shopping in town- got my Shofar and Schwarma:), visited the clinic, Dinner at Notre Dame to Celebrate Leanne's amazing birthday:), watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding in the Garden

Day 13: The goodbyes began, packed up and went to our hotel, Pizza at Jacob's Pizza, my FAVORITE watermelon popsicle for the last time, then went to the western wall one last time, slept on the floor, then I was off to the airport at 4:45 am....that was fun... not;)

Let me know what you want to know about, and I'll write more about it;)

<3 M

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Waiting For a Change That Is Nowhere To Be Found

Brace yourselves.. this one is a little intense..

Some things never change. No matter how much you wish they would.. they don't. And maybe that's where I need more faith- that things WILL change for me- for the best- when the time is right.

Going to Israel was TRULY and incredible experience that I will never ever forget. I needed to get away from the ship for a while- to give myself some room and space to breathe and not have to focus so much on ship life, but also it gave me space to think a little bit. Which... isn't always the greatest thing in the world.

Honestly, I didn't think I'd miss the ship as much as I did. I left unsure of what is ahead- not sure if I was  going to stay on board only until February, was was the original plan, or if I'd stay later, not sure what job I'd have... lots of uncertainties. The time away really helped check some of that into perspective. I realized how much I do love the ship- not always ship life, but I do love living in a community like this, I love what we do, I love Africa. It's tough right now because none of those things are really in play, but I do greatly look forward to the great return to Africa.

Being gone, I missed some friends of mine terribly. Coming back, however, was nothing like I had thoguht. It was exciting, but I kept thinking that when I got back, people would make time for me, I'd suddenly have friends I didn't have before, I'd get to know more people, I'd fit in, I'd be home. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. It dawned on me last night how few of my friends are still here. There was a mass exodus both as I left and while i was gone- they're almost all gone. Mind you, I do have an extra confidence I didn't have before, more pep to my step, but as the days roll on, I'm starting to lose that. What happened? What clicked over to make this change?

I'm gonna let you in on something... The ship is a VERY tough place to be for single people... especially single people like me. I have a past- I'm no good at making lasting relationships and holding on to them- very few people in my life have been there through the rough times and stayed... I just never have been good at it. I'm terrible at initiating friendships, I am terrible at holding on to them... I am clingy, needy, and lonely. A recipe for disaster. I am so thankful for the people in my life who know me well enough by now to know how to help me through these things. But, it also means I am very alone much of the time.

Loneliness has always been a great struggle for me. Ever since I was a kid, if you asked me 'Michelle, what is your greatest fear?" It was being all alone. Yet, somehow I find myself in this place time and time again. The ship is great... but it can also be a place of lots of pain. If you allow yourself to get close to someone, you WILL have to say goodbye at some time or another- that's life, but when you do this enough times, it becomes hardening- you don't want to anymore. I came back excited to get to know people who are new and ready to hit the ground running, but the thing is- all of my reservations and fears are still where I left them...

Even in Israel, there were times I felt so alone. It seemed that everyone had a 'go-to' person and I was the odd man out. Really, I sort-of was... everyone was either married, related, or good friends... and I... wasn't... I sat alone 9/10 times on the bus, left to my own devices. I tried not to be bothered by it, but there were certainly days it took over and poisoned my soul- ruining the day ahead.

I am no good at having friends my own age... I either go younger or older- and normally I do great with people 5 or more years younger than me and people about 10 or more years older than me. I just feel I have a lot more I can relate to these groups of people. However, yet another recipe for disaster. On the ship, that means these people are either kids, teens or parents. See the problem? I sure do... I am close with families- which is a huge blessing... but... at the end of the day, they're not my family, and I"m not theirs. I may be their 'auntie' for a while, but I am not really family, nor do I expect to become family, so I'm not invited to family outings, dinners, movie nights, things like that...I'm still alone when it all comes down to it.

I have no home base here. Anyone I once had, has either moved on, or they are a part of a family or couple... meaning I am no one's priority. It seems harsh, but it is true. At home, if the family is in, I have people.. I have my family to have dinner with, if I am on the verge of a breakdown and I NEED to talk about something, I have my mom, I have my dad, I can go for a drive, play my guitar, I can cuddle with my nephew. Here, while on the verge of a breakdown, there's way for me to blow of steam, no one to just let me vent and to talk later... walks around the pond or 2am jam sessions . The only thing to do is pray. Which SHOULD be my default anyway, but it's not. Maybe that's a lesson to be learned, but I am not there yet..

I find myself around the ship looking for someone to invest in, someone to reach out to me, to be my partner in crime, my go-to- person, my side-kick... but unfortunately, that's not my reality. The reality is I am alone... it's time I take ownership of that and move through it... but, that, too never seems to work.

Sometimes I wonder if being home would make it all better, but really- the same problems would follow me there too...  I feel plagued by one of man's most lethal enemies.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Nightmare in Madrid...

So... I've been promising for a while to write a bit more... I thought I'd share a journal entry with you from the day I arrived in Israel. The flight from Madrid to Israel was a bit traumatic and I was not able to post about it until now, since Israel checks everything that is posted in its country. I didn't want to get into even more trouble.:)

I write daily- its a bit of a new years resolution to myself, but I had to break it due to this flight... I was annoyed to say teh least, but that explains the first line of the entry... enjoy;)

July 2, 2012
An unexpected turn of events prevented me from writing last night...

Sunday, I dreaded leaving. I think AGAIN I knew I was in for an innnnteresting trip... puilled myself together just in time, Airport with Matt, Margo and Sam, met up with Carol who bought us these awesome coffees, flight to madrid- I didn't realize I was flying in business class. EPIC. Great food:) I think I need it for what was coming next.

Got of the plane in Madrid, went to McDonalds, which I'm now grateful for, and made our way to our gate.We didn't realize we were really early- but again- a super good thing. I got my boarding pass, which they wouldn't give me in Tenerife... and so began the nightmare.

they asked us all kind of questions and seemedreally polit, so I answered nicely and smiled- but didnt give the most direct answers ever. They took my bags, then took me into a room where they patted me down, searched me, swabbed my clothes for bomb residue, checked my all felt very invasive. After a few minutes they let me get sorted out again and took me to another room, where I waited.

I saw them take everything out of my bags, swab all of my clothes, and sort through everything. One by one, my electronics came to me and I had to show them how to turn them on, take them out of their case and show them they worked. The Itouch case wasn't exactly helpful... it didn't want to come off and caused a bit of trouble... in the end I broke it a little, which is disappointing, as it was my brand new case.

I waited in the room for over 2 hours... I figured that at the end, they'd give me my stuff and i'd be on my way, right? Wrong. They called me into the space where my stuff was and showed me my things. All of my electronics in my duffel with clothes and everything from my backpack in a box, then my backpack with only my wallet and my face mask in it. They put everything else as checked luggage. I had to beg for benadryl...  I wasn't allowed my electronics, my journal(thus why I couldn't write), no anything.

I've NEVER felt so alienated and discriminated against in my entire life. I felt like I was being punished for being a kin,driendly, helpful human being. I got on the plane and cried. I had non of my usual coping mechanisms.... my journal, my music... It was a rough flight. It ended with me getting to see a MAGNIFACENT  sunrise:) We landed, got our stuff and money. I knew we should've gotten food and water, but no one listened to me.... got on the sherut(the Israeli bus taxi) and we were on our way to Jerusalem. 20 minutes into it, I felt like I was going to vomit and fought that for the rest of the ride. I made a full plan on what to do... it got very close.

Get got to the campus, walked up to the university. I was starving and dehydrated but decided just to take a nap and teal with the rest later... I woke up 3 hours later, ate a MASSIVE lunch then we went to the Old City for a walk:)...

I cut some things out and added a few things.. but that'd the gist...  Sam was with me the whole way. I think we were suspicious due to the fact we have passports that have all kinds of stamps in them, we are humanitarians which can sometimes be a red flag for activist, extremist what have you, and we were clearly Christians- we were studying about Jesus in Israel.. which I suppose we could've left out.. but.. yeah... we apparently had lots of the red flags... no one warned me beforehand.. just learned the brutal way. But hey- great story, huh? ;)

Oh... 1 more part... on the way there, I purposefully tried to carry everything on, because it was better to not lose things, right? Then everything ended up getting taken from me, as I was suspicious... then on the way back, they pulled me aside and asked me how I had so little for being there for 2 weeks.... it's called a laundry machine.. and no I didn't say that;) 

With that,
I promise that I'll get pictures going really soon- I took over 3,000 pictures, so I need to get them all edited, cropped and pick which ones to put up on facebook and which would be boring to you but fun for me to look back on one day;) Thankfully the professor had us write reports daily(which I got behind on but finished the last day), I collected brochures and post cards the whole way and fun things like that... so... Ialso have to get on my little scrap book my mom got me at Christmas.... looking forward to it... so much to do, but I get to look back on my whole trip through it...

Overall INCREDIBLE experience, met some people who have really truly been changing my life and my perspective a little at a time and I feel truly blessed for being so fortunate to have been chosen by God to take this trip at the time I did. Now to get my Dad there..;)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Good Life

When we first got to Tenerife, I think I was under the impression I might have a lot of free time, thus the promise to blog all of the time... however... I was wrong. The cabin I'm sitting in became unbearably hot, so I pretty much avoided it for a while, and neglected the computer for a few days, plus oh man is there so much to do here. Thankfully pretty much all of the 'finds' I've made are surprisingly cheap. I think the US has something to learn from Tenerife...

Exhibit A...
Today, I went to Panaria, where I got a coffee and a pastry ... THEN, I got a sandwich made with facaccia, brie cheese, micro greens, tomato and amazingness along side a MASSIVE orange juice, which was fresh squeezed... it's this giant machine that they throw oranges into whole and it throws them around and juices them.... EPPPIC...  All of this for a whoppingggg... 8 Euro.... aka 10 USD... Um... HELLLOOOO?!?! I could NEVER get any of that for this price let alone together at home... EVER... Wow!! 

I really wish I hadn't let my spanish skills get rusty... they are SOOO rusty.. thankfully the people here are really nice about it and smile when I try... hasn't gotten in my way so far..;)

Anyway... For those wondering, I'm doing really well. I thought this time would be a lot harder on me than it has been. 95% of my friends have left and many for good, so it's a bit of a transition for me. I think part of it is that it just hasn't hit me yet that these people are gone for good... I think it will, and I dread that day, but for now I'm fine. Thankfully a lot of these people are people I see myself meeting again in the future, so that's always comforting.

I was able to switch jobs from June 1 till now, which was amazing. I LOVE working with these kids... it was a great time of getting to know them better, learn more about my leadership style- which things I need to work one, which worked, etc... it was also great to watch these kids really dig in to the discussions we had about the bible and the Psalms... well most of them did at least;) Our group LOVED to tell stories to eachother, so there were days our Devotion time went 30 minutes past what I'd planned because we just were on a roll with the stories:) My only disappointment is that it's over now and reception will have me back as of July 18. Not so excited about that, but I'm praying about that one, and we'll see what God's got up his sleeve. It's not that I hate reception- I just hate the shifts... I am realizing more and more that I just can't handle the switching back and forth with nights as well as I was thinking I could... my sleeping problems have dissolved now that I have a consistent sleep schedule... not to say I don't have an occasional bout of night terrors... I do.. but.. yeah. Anyway. I'll keep you posted on that;)

I am really digging my life right now. Today, I walked out into town ALONE- something I haven't felt comfortable with since I left home. Togo wasn't safe to walk alone- I don't care who you talk to- it's just not... as is the case for most West African countries... so, I strolled out this morning ready to take on the world with a huge smile on my face: ) It was glorious. I realize every time I go to a new city how much I ADORE city life. I've always thought I'd love living in the country, but the more I travel, the more I realize my draw to cities. I love being able to walk virtually anywhere. I can see myself living in a city for sure in the next few years- I'll probably still have a car for practical reasons, but I don't plan on using it when I've got 2 perfectly capable feet and legs that can get me there. Really- they have the system completely right- You walk EVERYWHERE, and eat along the way, but you don't gain anything because 1)the food is 99% better for you than the US, and 2) you burn everything off.... awesome:)

Anyway.. I divert.

Tomorrow I go to Israel. The most common questions are: Are you ready? Are you Excited?

1) I'm not sure I"ll ever be ready. I did most of the work that I was told to do... note the word Most.. but.. yeah.. I feel prepared, but not ready... I mean.. how can you ever be ready to walk in the place where Jesus walked? Really, now.

2) I'M SO EXCITEDDD!! The more I dug into the material we were asked to read and just dove in, the more excited I got.. there's so  much to see and do and I'm going to be exhausted after this trip, but I'm excited to see yet ANOTHER country and explore a new city for sure- especially one that has meaning to me personally. I"m really looking forward to seeing what God has to show me there. I am a huge history buff... well.. let me qualify that... I love GOING to the places where things happened and exploring what it might've been like and learning all about the details. I HATE reading about it and getting facts perfect, but I LOVE BEINNNNG there:) Put me in a museum- ESPECIALLY an art museum, and it's all over... I could spend days there just thinking about what it'd be like to be this person or in this place... this is going to be one of those amazing times where things just bounce off the page of my bible and into real life. I know it's not going to be this perfect amazing experience, but I do look forward to what it will be.


This was a loaded post, but alas... that's what you get when I write;) Always loaded.

I won't be using my computer much while in Israel, except to upload pictures to it, which MAY mean you'll get some facebook picture updates(since it's much faster to do that there than on board), but  no promises.

I'll catch you all on the flip side.

<3 Your excited explorer

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I have every intention of finishing the series of blogs I started... eventually... well... I'll finish by Sunday when I fly to ISRAEL!! I am so blown away by my life at the moment... the 11 days of sailing are CERTAINLY worth the reward... Tenerife is incredible. My only woe at the moment is I'm not sure if my wallet can handle all of the great things this place has to offer. Praying that'll take care of itself somehow, but we shall see...

Anyway... Some of my favorite pictures to hold you over until a real post comes;)

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Renewed Passion

Wow! I don't think I realized how fast time has flown... sorry to my readers out there... it's been a wild few weeks;) There's a lot going on around here.

First order of business... how COOOOOOL is it that I'm posting this blog from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean?!?! Isn't technology INCREDIBLE?!?!?!?!:) Sailing has been good- calmer today, which I'm thankful for... but that's for another post;)

The last few weeks have included a temporary job change, much debate about my future, growing closer with some friends, drifting apart from some, re-connecting with one of my passions which has been on the backburner, saying goodbye to Togo- to the people, to the country, to all of the amazing experiences that were had, moved into a family cabin.. tons has happened... This could get quite long, so I"m going to make it a series of posts... starting with...

Something that has taken me by surprise is my sudden kindling of a flame that's been gone for a while. Since I moved into a family cabin, by default I inherited a guitar. Now, let me rewind a moment... I was extremely blessed to be given the opportunity to cabin sit for a family I'm close with. This means I went from having a small bunk to myself to having a living room, kitchenette, 2 bedrooms, a massive bed, a TV, a refrigerator, and the works... I feel like I"m home... it's INCREDIBLE.. Hoping I won't be miserable when I go back to the cave, but I SO needed this!!  THANK YOU BERGMAN FAMILY!!:)

 Anyway... yes- the guitar.... man... A few weeks before I moved into the cabin, I started fiddling with a guitar that was in the International Lounge, but really wanted something to use often. Since I moved in, I think there was only 1 day where I wasn't playing guitar, and I'm up to about 2 hours daily of guitar... I'm to the point where I have to start disciplining myself to get other work done before I can touch the guitar... never works.. but I try;) I just love it... there's something so much more powerful to me when I"m playing guitar... Piano and I are buddies, but I feel like I can REALLLLY dig deep when I"m playing guitar- and I LOVE singing while playing... on piano I have a hard time multi-tasking, unless it's a song I wrote.. then it's fine:)

I've been given a few opportnities to flex my guitar muscles and was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to play this morning for the community meeting- I played 2 songs with this awesome woman Amy, who was on keys and vocals with me:) It was fierce and just felt so great to use my talents for more than just my sanity. One day, I told my kids I needed a nap really bad... later I saw one of my girls, and she said 'Miss Michelle... did you get a nap?' and I said... "nope... played guitar and I feel GREAT!!' :)

 I'm in love... truly... I'm seriously contemplating buying a guitar while we're in Tenerife, but... not sure if my pocket can handle that right now... we'll see what happens I suppose. It's be great if I could have one of my own:) I miss my little harmony I left at home... though here I"m in need of something that I can plug in... *sigh*... I'll have this one until August 3rd at least:)

So, stay tuned for posts throughout the week.. I'm trying to post something new every few days until I catch you all up;) 

Sunday, May 20, 2012


This is a long, though entertaining one... go get a coffee and a snack...;)

Some of you may have seen on facebook that I participated in the Chopped competition on board, so I thought I'd fill you in on all of the happenings of that evening;)

Wednesday night, we put on a full-blown chopped competition.... well.. mostly:) You know the tv show? 5 Chefs, 1 appetizer, 1 entree, 1 dessert with eliminations in between each round, 1 basket with 4 secret ingredients per round.... ring any bells?... well.. I am a HUUUUGEEEE fan of this show... whenever it was on TV and I would attempt passing the channel, I'd always end up sitting there longer than planned and watch the full episode- and if it was back to back chopped episodes, I was DOOMED... the only shows that do this to me are Chopped, Iron Chef America, and my FAVORITE- Cupcake Wars.... any other show I can almost always pass up...:) BIG.FAN. It honestly felt like a dream come true that I was even considered to be a contestant...

Our version was a little bit different... we had only 2 rounds- 1 entree and 1 dessert round and after the first round, THREE contestants would be chopped... THREE!!! So, the heat was on- entrees have never been my forte... I'm not known to be a cook- I'm a known baker... i LOVE my recipes, I ALWAYS triple, quadrupral check everything before I mix and I'm not a fan of straying from recipes- why mess with what is already great, right? So, when I was told 'no recipes'... I almost had a panic attack... but... game on.

I was doubting myself up to the minute I walked into the room with the contestants... then I said 'You have a choice, Michelle, be confident and go for it, or cower down and fail...' ... I decided to just go at this full-heartedly and just see where it lead...I studied my tail off in the 2 days leading up to the competition- sat with recipes, memorizing them, wrote down ones worth remembering- sauces, marinades, cupcakes, cookies, puddings, everything.. right before the show, I layed down- put myself in time-out if you will, and read through my recipes over and over again until I was sure they were deep down in there. Then, it was time...

Now, let's lay out the contestants for a moment... we had Ben Goble- galley cook, Ben Digmann- Lab Tech, Bob Russell- Dentist, Josh Callow- Photographer, and Me- receptionist... The fact that I was the only woman reallyyyy fueled my fire to beat these guys.. the cooking industry is still surprisingly male dominant, and I wasn't about to get out in the first round.. I needed to represent all of those amazing female chefs out there... it was a heavy weight to bear, but boy did it help me fight hard for this.

I headed up to meet everyone with my measuring cups, my sweet African apron, my piping tips, and my notebook(which I didn't end up using.. definately strayed from my usual self on this evening..). We watched the introduction to a real episode of chopped, the rules were explained, then we filmed a short 'how are you feeling' video. It's funny, because they asked me 'how are you feeling? nervous? excited? Anxious? Up until this point, I was so nervous it was almost crippling, but at this point, my game face was on and I said 'I'M READY TO BEAT THESE GUYS!!!!!' Then they asked who I thought my toughest competitor was... I said Josh Callow- the man who made stuffed peppers out of triscuits a few weeks ago- and they were aweosme. Later, I asked Josh what he said, and he said "I think the moment we saw you with those measuring cups, we realized how prepared you were, so we all said you were our toughest competitor..." turns out they were right:)

After this, we went down to be interviewed in front of the crowd, where the baskets for round 1 were revealed. Round 1- the entree round secret ingredients were: walnuts, chicken breast, cinnamon bark, and African yam... The minute I saw that HUGE yam I let out an "OHHH NOOO!!!!" Not the best technique to show you're confident, but it's one thing I didn't think we'd get. It came to mind in preparation, but never really though we'd go there... I thought maybe plantain or watermelon, but not african yam..

I took off running down the hall (sorry Captain!) the minute they started counting down. 45 minutes to cook an entree... doable but tight..The first thing I did was got oil on the stove. I thought I'd make a yam french fry, which I'd had before and thought was yummy. I got going and realized the chicken would take the longest. So, after working on the fries, I abandoned that whole thing to get the chicken going. If there's one thing I've learned about chopped, it's that people who lose do so because of their lack of time managment.. and I wasn't going to be a victim to poor time managment..  from the second they said we'd do walnuts, I had the idea to do a walnut crusted chicken. So, I threw the walnuts into the food processor(THANK GOODNESS they gave us a food processor- one of my greatest fears was having to finely chop anything because it'd take foreverr!), mixed the walnuts together with some basil, oregano, salt, pepper, cayanne(my judges like spice so I played off of that a bit.. plus walnuts and heat work well together), and I grated some of the cinnamon bark into the mixture... well a lot of it really because I wanted the flavor to come out. I breaded the chicken with this after I dunked it in egg and pan fried it. Good choice minus the part where it MIGHT've overcooked a tad.. better than raw chicken right?

Once I got the chicken in, I realized fries didn't really work with this meal so much, so I got a pan going and decided to attempt latkes. I looked up a recipe during my preparation the day before in case we got potato- I KNEW I didn't want to serve mashed potatoes- that's WAY too overdone, so I found latkes... I decided it was worth a try.. the judges were judging on creativity afterall, right? I'd rather lose because I got too creative than lose with something that was good but boring. So, I got going on that. For the record, African yams are MASSIVE!!! I'd say a bit bigger than my forearm and hand and much thicker... HUGE. I grated the yam, mixed with some flour and egg and got going on it. I tried the first one to be sure it tasted okay.;.. it was good, but it had a BITTER aftertaste. So, I decided to mix onion and some of the walnut and spice mixture in hoping that some of the tones would work well in the yam.

I had everything ready to go and staying warm in the oven when I was told we had 10 mintues left... 10 minutes... 10 MINUTES?!?! You gotta be kidding me!! That's like 10 years in chef time... so I was thinking.. 10 minutes is a lonng time- I can pull something else out for sure! So, I grabbed the red wine box and got to playing around... I'd never made a red wine sauce in my life, but I'd never made anything on this plate in my life, so I might as well try... So I put the red wine in a saucepan with some onion, garlic, a few large pieces of cinnamon bark... it got cooking, but wasn't thickening fast enough for comfort, so I added cornstarch. Then more cornstarch.. then some more.:) I tasted it and it was SOUR, so I added honey..... BAM! We were there. In the time I waited, I also sauteed some onions because that'd go well with everything on the plate. With 4 minutes to go, I pulled out the chicken and latkes, picked my favorites and plated them. The chicken got small small soggy on the bottom- I should've put it on a paper towel, but I think it was fine... I strained the red wine sauce so it was nice and smooth, plated everything and bam! Done with 2 minutes to spare.

We took them down to be tasted by the judges. I noticed a WHOLE lot of yam mash- glad I didn't go that route, but some of the platings were GEORGOUS!! I was suddenly SUPER nervous...I realized that though I am a semi-trained cook, these guys were GOOD!

The judges got going. Oh- by the way, the judges were: Ken Hatfield- our food services manager- trained at Le Courdon Bleu, Rachel Foster- my previous team leader in the galley- also trained at Le Courdon Bleu, and Captain Jon Fadely- trained by his mom and grandma(which is where I first learned too, so we had a bond):) They liked my dish with a few qualms. They didn't like my plating. It was cluttered... but... if you know me... that's who I am haha... cluttered but pretty in spite of chaos... right? ;) It's the way I like my food to look.. but def not professional:) Otherwise they loved the idea of the latkes, they said they could taste each secret ingredient very well, LOVED the red wine sauce(yayyy), and overall liked it. Trouble was, they also liked everyone elses. Each dish had 1 or 2 things they didn't like, but overall everyone rocked it... there were 2 I was especially concerned about becuase they recieved great comments about their plating, the flavors, the taste, etc.. I got reallllly nervous again...

The wait between the judges finishing the tasting and the announcement was EXCRUCIATING... I was fine for the first few minutes, then I started freaking out... how would I react if I didn't get this- I realllly wanted this- how would I react if I did... what things could I make for this round... Then they announced... the 2 to go to the next round aree...... "Ben Goble.... anndd... The ONLY lady in our lineup... MICHELLE!!" I FREAKED OUT... ALL i wanted out of this was to make it to the dessert round... I DID IT!  I tried to contain my excitement, but it didn't work. I was especially beaming at the friends who were there who knew I wanted this so badly and knew how much I was freaking out and how hard I'd worked beforehand.

Then we were told the ingredients for the dessert round.... Pumpkin, Molasses, Lemon Juice, and Hazelnuts. When I saw pumpkin I let out a loud "YESSSSS!!!". We americans know our pumpkin... annnd molasses for that matter. I was up against a South African... I knew I had the upperhand in this not only becuase of my experience, but boy were those ingredients sooo american. When we realized there was only one basket, he looked at me and said 'Do you want me to carry that, or..' I looked at the basket, realizing it was heavy... and I thought for a second... and then grabbed it and RAN up the steps as fast as I could back to the kitchen... haha.

30 minutes to make a dessert....INSANITY....
I got up the kitchen and was a bit thrown off. Now, I know we didn't do the dishes, so I don't know why I expected the dishes to be gone, but they were still there- right where I left them... I was kicking myself for not cleaning up at the end of the last round where I had some spare time.. it took me some time to gain my footing. I stood there for a minute... blank. Not sure what to do. Ben was a tough competitor. I had no idea where his baking skills layed, but I knew he was  good cook for sure.. then I realized it was just the 2 of us... all of the attention was on us now... too much attention for my comfort...At one point, I remember John, the host of the event, looking at me and saying "So, how are you feeling? Do you know what you're doing." I looked at him, and then the camera and I said... "Good and yes.." then kept going... a second later I was like 'OHHH you wanted to know what I'm doing!!! It was disorienting, but thankfully one of the judges, Ken, stepped in and helped wash dishes for me...everything I needed was either dirty or missing..

I decided to make a pumpkin cookie with a molasses buttercream, unsure of how to incorperate the lemon juice and hazelnuts. the FIRST thing I did, though, was get those hazelnuts in the oven to toast a bit...good choice for sure. I  felt like a chicken with its head cut off, but I stood there for a moment, gained composure, and I was off...

Now, for those of you who watch these kinds of shows, there are types of competitors. The ones who are super arrogant, the ones who are always waiting to the last moment, the ones who are wayy too slow for their own good, the calm ones, the ones who run around like maniacs, but get the job done... I don't think all of these were represented in our group, but I think most of them were hit by one of us... Now..1 guess which one I was... now, brace yourselves- this actually really surprised me.. I had 0 idea until the heat was a...runner.... GASSSSPP!!! I never knew!! Truly!! I was a MANIAC!!! A sweaty, crazed chef, but boy did I get things done..had it not been for my mania, I don't think I would've gotten as much done...:) I remember hearing Captain Jon say 'She's just so intense and everything has such urgency.. it seems to work.." hah:)

I got going and tried to remember the recipe I'd memorized so well earlier in the day- the one for tollhouse chocolate chip cookies. Now, I remembered most of it, but was so crazy with trying to find the kitchen aide attachments(I had to use a stinkin whip for cookies... not ideal... great for the buttercream, but not for the cookies...) that things slipped... for example, the eggs... I put 1 cookie in to test, and not a minute after I got it in did I remember the eggs... *sigh*... I got them in though. I also remembered much later that I was supposed to put brown sugar in... but honestly- it's better... the pumpkin was super sweet as was... As I was tasting the cookie dough...yes..I'm a dough eater...I taste everything I make before I cook it..I realized it was missing something... so I added some of the lemon juice and a handfull of hazelnuts. PERFECT!! Soooo good!  Got those in the oven then on to the buttercream...

Butter, confectioners sugar, molasses... yum... but SWEEEET... I neeeeeded to find a way to cut into the sweetness. I knew for a fact that at least 1 judge isn't really into sweeeet things... Lemon juice! Yes! Perfect!! I attempted to add some cayanne pepper as well, but unfortunately it didn't come through... it would've been reallly good though... if I make this again, which i fully intend to try, I will definately put more cayanne in. Now, this round was chock full of mistakes, but thankfully nothing that wasn't redeemable. For example, I didn't make sure the bowl was secured before putting it on full whip and walking away... now, for the record, this bowl is super tempermental as is, so it would've come loose either way... so this bowl goes crazzzzzzy spinning all around almost spilling everything all over the place... certainly got the attnention of everyone in the room.... the Captain looked at me and said... "Are you okay?" haha... 'yes... I'm fine.. and thankfully the cookies are as well.."  I said:)

The biggest challenge for this round was that time was not on my side. 1/2 way through this round, I looked at Ken and said, "You do realize how INSANE and IMPOSSIBLE it is to bake in 30 minutes, right??" So he looked at me and said, "Yeah.. that's why I just extended it by 7 minutes." :) These cookies were big.. they needed to be because I was basically planning to make a cookie sandwich out of them.. no one wants a small little dinky dessert, right? They did NOT want to cooperate. Honestly, they were a bit more cakey than I'd planned, which was fine, but they didn't want to cook through... I had no choice but to pull 2 off and throw them in the freezer hopign they'd cool enough for me to get it on a plate with some buttercream, not melt the cream and somehow be cooked through... I got them on, piped the buttercream- it was the perfect consistancy... laid another cookie sideways so it looked nice, piped a little cream on the plate, sprinkled some hazelnuts on top of the cream that was on the cookie... but it was too... tan.. I didn't like the color.... So.. I went MICHELLE on it.. I grabbed a knife, dipped it into molasses and pretty much splattered/ swirled the plate with molasses.... such classic Michelle, it's not even funny- the queen of tye dye/ splattered anything.. I was happy with it.

As we walked the plates down, I looked at the judges and said "Can we PLEASE do mine first so you get it before it melts?' They listened. As we walked down, there were lots of 'oohs and ahhs' to both of our plates. I looked at Ben's dish, where a dessert laid so nicely in a square shape- it looked SHARP... I guess it just depended on what the judges declared dessert... to me it's something big and mostly heavy and just decadent, but to some, it's something simple and clean, yet delicious.... they had both in front of them. I got realllly nervous. As we walked down, Ben said "you'll have to show me how you got those cookies out in 20 minutes!"

I honestly didn't know which way it'd go, but I was really happy with my dessert- that's all that mattered to me- that it was something I liked and would eat... if the judges disagreed, that's fine...I did something I liked and that was all. The MC had us explain what we did, so I told them what I made... I shouldn'tve said there was cayanne though because then they were waiting for it... the hit never came... again- I'll do it again sometime and make it bang. They said they really liked the idea- they wished the cookies were cooked a little more, they loved the buttercream, wished they could taste the pepper. Now here is where the judges were divided... Captain Jon loved the design I made with the molasses- the splatter, if you will... the other 2... hated it. Later I asked Ken and he said he actually liked it but it wasn't professional and I went a little overboard.. but.. again.. I liked it a lot:) If it was my restaurant- it'd stay;)

At this point- I honestly didn't know what would happen... Ben pulled out a STRONG dish in the first round.. mine was good, but his was better. This was an overall competition- he beat me on the first round.. now the question is, whose dessert was better... the judges explained before they presented that the person they picked was one that used the ingredients as the main focus of the dishes, not something else that was found in the pantry and that was the main way they decided.... the winner was...drumroll pleasee........
MEEE!! Haha.. I don't want this to sound self centered- believe me- these guys were fierce competitors... but I only have my side of the story to tell- i didn't really pay any attention to the rest of the goings on of the evening;)

Anyway.. I won a $10 gift card and a dinner out on the town... exciting!!

Now, I need to make everything again so I can actually taste the entree... I didn't ever taste the final product...

And that is the story of how I won Chopped in Africa...;)

<3 M

Friday, May 18, 2012

Easing Back In..

I wrote this a week ago,but forgot to post it... enjoy:)

After losing Chantal, I pushed back a little bit.... I didn't realize it until maybe 2 or 3 days ago- or maybe I just didn't want to admit it fully, for fear that'd mean I'm not done grieving. I cut myself off from the ward when we lost her. I stopped going all together. The last night I was down there was the night she passed away- I didn't know yet and realized that all of the patients I had gotten to know were gone... my reasons for going down were few and quite honestly I didn't have the emotional energy to put myself through that again so soon...

Last night, I got back to my room at about 8:40 and said... " I need to get downstairs and see some patients." Not sure what sparked this change of heart. I think it had a lot to do with going to the HOPE center(Our housing for patients who live far away pre- and post-op.) last week, where I met the sweetest little baby boy who had a cleft lip and palate... I realized once he gets here he'll have less than a week on board- I wanted to be sure to see him. I got down there and didn't see him, but figured he's probably not ready for surgery yet. He's a part of the feeding program, which strives to get the babies feeding effectively and gaining weight pre-op so that they are healthy and fit for surgery. He looked to be about 1.5 months old, but odds are he is probably closer to 7 or 8 months...

I got down there and met the sweetest little baby boy- he has a bilateral incomplete cleft lip, meaning he has a cleft on both sides of his lip- not just one- and it doesn't go all the way up to the nose. I had a complete unilateral cleft lip and palate.. basically opposite of this little guy;) At first, he didn't like being away from his grandmom, which I thought was his mama until I looked around.. he would let out a little shriek every now and then telling me he wasn't sure about me, but I got him settled quickly.. we wandered over and I saw a little guy, then I heard my Togolese name being yelled over and over... "Akouvi", except this mama thinks it's funny to call me "Akougon", which means "Born on Wednesday and big"... its supposed to be a compliment... I look over and see a very familiar face. Edom and his mama- Hapi- were on the ward at the beginning of the field service when I was a little more diligent in getting down there.

This guy had a facial tumor that took over 1/2 of his face. I didn't realize he'd be back in, but should've assumed... he looked awesome... I didn't even recognize him, but he joyfully kept yelling "AKOUGON, AKOUGON!!" :) He was running around like a crazy man, which is funny and just extremely exciting for me, as he was a guy who was very shy and bedridden on his last visit to the ward... :) Truly awesome seeing a new life for this little guy. He'll always be 'different', but man will he have an amazing story of how God watched over him, and his amazing strong mom, who I named 'Trouble":)

I left him and rocked this little sweet one to sleep. I explained to his grandmother and mom that I had the same thing, that the surgery would be short and a very simple procedure and the Dr. Gary was amazing- he'd look great. His mom couldn'tve been older than 16- If I could guess, I'd say she's 14 and the grandmother couldn'tve been older than 45... they were afraid, but I could tell they cared deeply for this little guy and wanted the best for him. I can't wait to go see him tonight:)

I realized that the reason I was afraid of going back was 100% selfish- in my mind it was justified, but still very selfish... I'm happy to be back on the ward- where I feel most at home here in Africa... other than a few places I've had the joy of visiting off ship, but we'll talk about that another day...

I feel so filled with joy for these patients...Best part of my job is that I get to see patients come and go- I got to see a patient friend leave the ship the other day and it was so exciting, I was almost in tears! SO amazing to see her attitude turned from a shy, scared woman to one full of joy and excitement for her new life. Today at work, I saw a group of about 5 kids and their mamas go down to the ward who have different facial deformities... it'll be awesome seeing their outcome in a few days.

Update: I got to see my little cleft baby and he looks AMAZING!! Big boy and healed amazingly:) I now have a 'befriend a patient' whose name is Rudolph and had extensive surgery which brought his left eye 3cm in closer to his nose- amazing- he's a bit of a handfull as most 4 year olds are but we have fun together. It's especially fun because they speak English, so I can have a full conversation without a translator- I didn't realize how nice that was until recently:)

Thanks for your comments and prayers, guys!! Please keep them coming- surgeries are wrapping up and lots of changes are about to happen- most of my friends will either leave forever or leave for vacation, I'll move into a family cabin for 2 months(yess), job changes for a short time, Israel trip- lots happening and I could use your support and prayers;)

Monday, April 30, 2012

More Ramblings of a Night Shift Worker...

I thought I would share something with you I've been thinking about pretty much this whole night shift I'm currently in...

John 9:1-6
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, " But this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes...

Now, there's a whole lot more to this story than just this bit, but I wanted to share this bit. I stumbled upon this during a church service, if I'm remembering correctly. I heard it a few months ago and it hit me like a ton of bricks...

You see, here in West Africa- at least the countries I've been to- Benin, Sierra Leone, Togo, they believe that bad things happen due to a curse, much like the disciples above, who asked who sinned to cause this to happen to the man. Thankfully, Jesus sets them straight by saying, 'Neither'... This makes me think of a conversation I had in Benin. I've told this story before, but it's on my mind, so I"m going to share it again.

A Grandmother was sitting in bed with her 1 month old granddaughter, who happened to have a cleft lip. After talking with this woman a bit, through a translator of course, I learned that the mom died not too long after child birth. I explained that I also had a cleft lip and palate when I was born. She was shocked and confused. She asked me how this is possible- it's a local curse, not something that you can get in the US. I explained to her how it's not a curse, but rather a medical condition that can happen randomly. It can be genetic, but in my case, and her granddaughter's case, it's a random occurrence. She was in disbelief and also very clearly relieved. She asked me why this happens and I explained what I know medically, then I looked at her and said, "You know what, I think this happens so that God could bring people like me and you together." I never realized how biblical this statement was until recently.

Jesus himself says it- these things happen to bring glory to God... now that can look like so many different things.. but for me, it's why I feel this has happened to me. I've never felt like a victim. I've always looked at it like a trial that I faced when I was young, and to this day I still battle with different problems that the cleft has given me- Dental, ENT issues, etc, but I've grown to own it.

I've grown to realize this is something God uses in me. My hospitalizations, my experiences with doctors, my struggles that have come because of my 'handicap' as some would call it has made me a strong woman who wouldn't have it any other way. I thoroughly plan on using these experiences to help other kids in the same situation through their trials and help them come out on top.... Isn't God great?

Anyway, that was something that has been on my mind all night. I'm interested to see where God takes me next on this crazy journey in Africa. I'm not sure right now what the next year looks like- if I'll get a new job that I"m in love with, of it I'll be in a job I don't love, whether I'll come home in February like I had 'planned', or if I'll stay longer, whether I'll get to keep my original plan of  getting home before camp next year, or if there's something else that'll come up... I have 0 idea, but keeping in mind that God's got a plan for me and as long as I'm trusting in him and listening, he'll take me there, is so exciting... a little scary, not gonna lie, but I think more exciting. He's been showing me so much lately and turned so many grim situations into a good thing that I'm excited to see what he's got for me this time;)

Anyway... that's it from me for tonight... not bad for a sleep deprived shift worker, huh? :)

<3 M

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Sweet Friend.

This week, the ship lost someone who was held very near and dear to our hearts.
Before I tell you my experiences with her, take a peek at my friend's blog. She words it BEAUTIFULLY and was one of her nurses, so she explains the medical side of things far better than I eveer could..

Now for my side of the story...
A few months ago, I heard about a patient who was on the ICU who was struggling. From the moment I saw her through D ward(which is connected to the ICU), I wanted to meet her. I wasn't allowed, however, until she was released from the ICU. Fair enough. We have our rules, as any hospital does, though msot of our visiting rules are a little more flexible toward crew spending time with patients than home standards are.

I first met Chantal in February. She was placed on my favorite ward- at the time B ward, which is almost 100% for plastics patients(burns/ anything related to needing skin grafts). One of the first interactions we had was I saw her coming out of the bathroom, nearly falling over becasue he arm was secured to stand straight out from her body, which isn't exactly a practical position. The entry to the bathroom and the bathroom itself are so small, that she reallly needed some help, so I sprang up to help her. I got her in her bed, where she rested. She seemed tired, but mainly just emotionally exhausted. Imagine being stuck to a bed for weeks and weeks with a rare opportunity to get outside if your injury is severe enough, with no family by your side or friends from home visiting... exhausting.

I decided to visit her as often as I could. Looking back, I wish I had visited her much more in those early days. She spoke a little bit of english, but that was enough for us. I'd always go talk to her for a few minutes, play with the crazy kiddos, then come back for a few more minutes before I left for the evening.

As time went on, I noticed a change. 2 things really. Her attitude got better, but her body got weaker as the days tuyrned into weeks. She seemed to have a light in her eyes. Later, I found out she'd accepted Christ... it makes so much sense, and I'm so thankful to those who spoke with her about this and prayed with her and planted those seeds which turned into a beautiful flower.

My visits got harder and harder, but I never stopped. One day, I asked a friend, a doctor on board, what it looks like for her. She said they were at this point just trying to keep her comfortable- there was nothing more that could be done. Her body was too weak to continue fighting effectively. We were nearing the end.

Each visit, the life in her eyes got more and more dim. Not that her spirit got weak, it was just that her body was fading... and fast. I did all I could to get down there as often as I could and just sit there holding her hand. I couldn't help but think of what it must be like being in her shoes. As the days went on, I found out more and more from her nurses- she doesn't have parents, she lives in Ghana, but they couldn't find her 4 year old daughter to come say goodbye. The more I heard, the more my heart broke for this amazing young woman- my age- who has been through so much, staring death in the face.

At first, my prayers for her were asking for a miracle- that God would spare her. As I realized that wasn't God's plan, I started praying God would take her as soon as he could. It felt really strange, but I just didnt' want to watch this sweet girl suffer anymore. I visited each time, knowing my visits were few, but I dont think I anticipated how few.

I went down last Saturday, and saw her slipping. Her eyes rolling back in her head, her breathing much more labored than the last time I saw her, she would cry out in pain... I felt like there was nothing I could do to help her... I tried to help her get comfortable, but caused her more pain... I just held her hand. As I left, I asked if I could pray with her and she let out a labored 'Yes'. I prayed God would take her pain and give her peace.. that he would be with her and comfort her through it all. The next day, I went to see her, and she was slipping even more. My prayers got more and more intense- asking God to take her.

The day workers I talked to were all strangely hopeful... saying 'Oh! She got to deck 7 today' -leaving out that they had to get her up there using a wheel chair.. "Oh she's doing great today! She's doing so much better!!'... I asked someoen about it... worried they didn't understand the magnitude of the situation- that we'd lose her in a matter of days. She said they are just in denial... it's not a part of African culture to embrace death and comfort the dying with the attitude of dying.

Oh how I wish I would have known Sunday would be my last day with her. I kind of knew ... I left with the feeling nagging at my gut that this was it for me. I left her that day without saying goodbye. Instead, what happened was she was crying and pain, and to soothe her, I stroked her forehead- much like I do to babies or kids when I'm trying to calm them down and get them to sleep or relax. She dozed off, and once I knew she was 100% out, I left her to enjoy her sleep, which hopefully would take her mind off of all of the pain and labored breathing.

The next day, I tried getting cover for my shift so I could go see her. No one could cover/I didn't ask people that I should've. I found out the next day that even if I had gone down, I wouldn'tve been allowed to see her. I inquired on Wednesday with the ward nurse manager asking if I could sit with Chantal, but she said no. It makes sense, but it was really hard to hear. If one person who isn't directly involved with her care goes to see her, everyoen else and their mother would want to go see her as well. It was extremely hard for me to take. I understood, but didn't want to accept I would most likely never see my sweet friend's face ever again.

On Thursday, I was at community meeting, which was on the dock. My mood dampered and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I was feeling like I was struggling to hold my head above water. Lonely. Aimless. Thankfully, my friends found me and I had a night of snuggling with my favorite 4 little ones, dancing and singing with crew and some patients I've grown to love who came down. Later, I saw a doctor come down and fetch another doctor, a friend of mine, who then rannnn up the gangway. My heart dropped and I felt sick. I knew. I let go of it, but I knew. Even later, a friend came down the gangway and just started sobbing. Confirmed.

I went down the ward. The ICU door was shut and windows were blocked. Even more confirmation. Nurses buzzed around with management, the head management were talking in Reception... again... confirmed.

I wanted to hear it from someone who knew what was going on. Needed to hear it from someone and not just a rumor from someone who had no idea who she was or what that meant. I looked around and couldn't find anyone I had the heart to ask. I went to my friend Becca's room, who had some involvement with the care and would know what was going on. I asked. She confirmed. She's gone.

Part of me jumps for joy for Chantal. She's up in heaven DANCING and SINGING and walking around with no pain, no dressings, no limitations. That brings tears to my eyes thinking about it. A FREE woman. No tubes to help her eat or to breathe... she could speak without taking every ounce of energy out of her... Incredible. I'm so thankful to the Lord I know where she is and that all of the suffering is over, it's not beginning- its finished.

But deep down in me, I'm so heartbroken. I had so much hope for her when she got here. I really thought we could save her. We did, just not in the way we thought we would. I was chatting with my sister online the day before we lost Chantal, and she reminded me of something. I don't need to be this firm strong person like I seemed to think I had to be. I was ALLOWED to mourn this loss. Eventually I need to let go and just move on, but I have every right to mourn her and grieve the loss of this sweet dear friend I'd made.

Most of me during all of this was thinking this was a bit of a test for me. I am interested in Child Life- right- most of you know that, but I've been challenged by the though of doing more critical cases- terminal or risky care- something like Hematology, Oncology, Emergency. I was thinking this would be a case where I test out how it is to be emotionally involved with a patient and lose them... a bit morbid thinking, but true. I realize that no case is going to be the same. It'll always be different. Things here are a little more intense because we're facing situations every day that would be a rare case at home. I mean come on- 16lb tumors being removed frequently would get you on the news at home, here it's our reality and our daily life. I know at home I'll get attached to patients and go through very similar cases with them as I have with Chantal, but I can't really decide if I'm cut out for that based on this one case. I just have to see what God wants for me when that time comes to pick a specialty- I've got about 2 years before I have to make that choice.... I just need to live day by day and let go of all of that worry.

I felt really amazed when I heard what happened in the final hours of Chantal's life. The nurses went way out of their way to try toget her some fresh air because she said she wanted to feel the wind on her face. They got permission from the Captain to open the pilot's entrance. This is where we let on someone while either coming into or leaving the port who helps direct us out safely. It is on the 3rd deck, where the hospital is, and it is right down near the water. I heard that it was a beautiful time. She sang songs with her nurse and Patient life friends, thanking God for all he has done. They wheeled her back to her room and in a matter of minutes she said, "Jesus is here, Jesus is here" and she passed away. They all said those final moments were so stunning and beautiful- not filled with fear and pain, but peace and hope. It really helps me knowing that she went out well.

It hits me a bit every day that I will never see my friend's beautiful face again. I will never hold her hand. I will never get to pray with her or kiss her cheek. But, she's up in heaven now looking over all of us and partying with Jesus... it's just amazing. I feel like there's a hole in my heart, but God has really comforted me, allowed time for me to let it all out and given me songs and words to help me through.

She lived an amazing life. I can only hope that when my time comes, those around me can look at my death as something beautiful. Sad, sure, but I hope I have a legacy of being a fighter and a warrior, like Chantal. I look forward to seeing her again one day in heaven... of that I am sure:)

I love and miss you, my dear dear friend...

<3 Michelle Joy