Monday, July 23, 2012

3,000 Miles Away, As the Crow Flies


Received an email from the wife of one of the leaders on Tori's service trip to Ecuador. Their first day was a thrilling success of fun--a great prelude to some serious work for the next couple of weeks. As the crow flies, they are approximately 3,000 miles away. I couldn't help but think of how the distance and the difference in surroundings, may be impacting this girl who by nature, would choose to sit quietly in her loft reading or writing stories about people and places and experiences much like the reality she is quickly coming to know. 

They spent their first hours flying through the air via 13 different zip lines plunging them down canyon jungles forwards, backwards, and "butterfly style." They had the option of either jumping off 50 foot cliffs into a deep river, or descending down a 50 foot vertical ladder, to then find and enjoy a sky ride with a view spanning the incredible terrain on which they had just been playing. Foreign surroundings, people, language, and adventure... all makings, I'm sure for an incredible journal entry :)

The next day was their first day in the orphanage. No word yet, on what they found there. As much as I dislike the inability to communicate with my girl, I am so glad for the chance she has to be out there doing this. If not an "out of body experience," it is certainly an "out of personality experience" destined to stretch her beyond her comfort zone and into an area that will shape and direct her life. 

I wonder how church was for them yesterday--what the building was like, how the local people may have welcomed the group, whether or not they understood the messages being taught, and if the spirit was able to break through that language barrier. I wonder how the children will receive them at the orphanage today, and how family night in various homes of local people will be. I wonder how their visit to the temple will feel to the girls collectively as well as individually. 

I read about the history of the temple, and have no doubt that something special awaits them - likely, the blessing for their weeks of service to those children. They say: 

The temple, labeled "the most beautiful building in Ecuador" by members and nonmembers alike, stands majestically in a peaceful hillside setting in northern Guayaquil. During a visit to the construction site, President Gordon B. Hinckley recounted the story of the site's selection. He said that several years earlier, he was taken to another site under consideration for the temple, but he "didn't feel well about the site that had been chosen. We visited the site and…the trucks that came up the hill had to gun their engines to make it up and the noise was just terrible. It just would not do. So we looked around…and then drove up a little two-track road to this spot. There was a guard here cooking over a little fire. I looked out over the city and had a feeling…as clear as anything that this was the site for the temple. We checked to see if the property was for sale. We found that it might be, and so we negotiated the purchase."1
During the public open house, visitors came at an average rate of 1,800 everyday, except for Saturdays when attendance dramatically increased to 5,400 on June 26 and to 15,200 on July 3. Volunteers eagerly participated in cleaning the temple including members of the Guayaquil Ecuador Pascuales Stake, one of the poorest areas in the city. A group of 50 of these Saints came to the temple at 11:00 p.m. one night and worked with sincere enthusiasm until well after midnight.2
The day after the dedicatory sessions, the temple was opened for service. Otavalan members, among the most faithful in Ecuador, attended the first ordinance sessions. The indigenous Otavalans wear a distinctive garb: brethren with a single braid, dress hat, white shirt, dark cloak, and white pants; and sisters with gold necklaces, stitched white blouses, and dark skirts—often carrying babies on their backs. The two stakes made the nearly 10-hour bus trip to attend the temple dedication, nearly filling the temple is one session.3

I expect to hear from Tori once this week and then not again until her return on August 4th. Looking forward, with much anticipation, to her report. 


Friday, July 20, 2012

Fit By Forty


I suppose I have to say (or write) a goal out loud in order to feel like it's real. So here it is. I have a birthday coming up in October and I'll be 40. Fabulous 40. And by then, I WILL be fit (ish). I may not be in the best shape of my life, but I will have reached a major mile marker, and will be ready to pick things up a notch in regard to activity level.

Since I was a kid, an active, athletic, and energetic life was important to me. I grew up on a trampoline, and competed in gymnastics throughout high school--then coached it for 12 years after that. I have run quite a few marathons and half marathons. I love to hike, walk, and bike. My 71 year old mother is still running half marathons, I guess you could say it's in my blood. 

However, training for and running downhill races for 10 years destroyed my hip. The osteoarthritis had done extensive damage, the labrum was torn, the cartilage was shot, the ligaments were torn, and the cup had deep grooves in it where the ball had been grinding bone-on-bone. For years, I didn't know what was wrong. I figured running had taken a cumulative effect, and kept thinking if I just took time off, it would heal itself. Months went by. Years went by. I was too stiff and sore to do much at all - but I couldn't give running up completely, so would run an event here and there without training. When friends invited me to run another Ragnar Relay, I knew I had to figure out what was wrong, before I could commit. So then I learned about the condition I had, and would be living with for the rest of my life. 

A few months later, I had a new hip. Now it has been almost four months with it and four months of recovery and extremely limited exercising after several years of activity levels decreasing slow but sure. Don't get me wrong, I am very strong. I was home from the hospital in two days, walking without crutches before the first week was up, and was driving by four weeks. By 6 weeks I was walking around my favorite reservoir - 4 miles. My recovery has been nothing short of miraculous in my opinion. It had to be... no time to be sitting around. 

Anyway, I have three months to lose the pounds accumulated as a result of a less active lifestyle, and am glad to be feeling strong enough to get back into mild workouts. I CAN do this. In three months I'll be almost seven months past surgery and should have permission from my surgeon to then begin a more vigorous exercise program. What a fabulous birthday - a new start, new energy, new strength. 

My longer-term goal is to keep up the strength and cardiovascular training through December, in order to be strong enough to begin something new in January. Thinking about Crossfit... does anyone have experience with this? I've heard really great things, but wonder if this is a little unrealistic for me. Docs say swimming, biking, and the eliptical are also good options.  Until then, I'm eating right and keeping active. My Body Bugg will be attached to my arm wherever I go, and I'll remember I'm on my way back to what makes me happy--energy in life, places to go, and people to celebrate health with. I welcome any thoughts or suggestions on goal-oriented workout programs. 

Happy and healthy wishes for all!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Beside Religion and Family, My Top Recommendation for Youth

video

Couldn't miss the girls more, when they leave home for good things. Couldn't be happier that they choose to serve. Tori-Laine just left this morning for her trip to Equador to work in an orphanage for two and a half weeks. I will have no contact with her, with the exception of a single email at some point during the trip. We don't know what kind of facility she will be staying in, she doesn't really speak the local language, and she doesn't know a single person in the group. How can I be okay with sending my 17 year old daughter to a third world country with complete strangers? 

The video above is Dania's experience with the same HEFY (Humanitarian Experience For Youth) Organization a couple years back. She went to Fiji to build toilets in a village without plumbing. Her trip to Polynesia wasn't as glorious as one might expect a Fijian experience to be, but it was beneficial, uplifting, and life changing for the volunteers as much as the locals. 

The trip fee is upwards of $2,500 but both of the girls were able to raise enough funds to cover 100% of the cost. So in short, they had (are having) an international and life-changing experience at no cost. The kids come home with an incredible perspective on loving and serving their neighbor. They stand up on their own two feet and make a real difference for real people that they come to know well, and shed a few tears for, during good-byes. Many leave much of what they had brought in their suitcase, with the locals--and wish they could leave more. But all take home, a bigger heart, an open mind, and a better perspective. 

Two cheers for youth leaders everywhere, that haven't given up on kids. I believe there is a special place in Heaven for all of them :) And might I suggest to parents of teenagers everywhere, take a look at this link: http://www.hefy.org/ 

Monday, July 9, 2012

One Year in New England, and All Is Well


Ahhh, New England. 

What can I say about a place that drowns one in peace and serenity and feels like a step back in time? Alright, maybe less so during the hurricanes, floods, power-outages by the weeks, and killer snowstorms (literally). But overall, I'd say New England must be one of the nation's best kept secrets. The last 12 months have been filled with a roller-coaster ride of experiences that our family could not and would not have known anywhere else. 

The roads here look like a bowl of spaghetti. The terrain is green and rocky, flowing with rivers, and filled with wildlife. We have seen everything from bears to birds enjoying the property, and we are grateful they share their home with us. We have felt spiritual growth and physical trials. We have stepped out of our comfort zone, and into a world of new people with different accents and expectations and perspectives. Variety is the word of the year, and we are pleased to find it in all things.

Since our arrival we have seen New York City and Boston, Broadway plays and the Atlantic Ocean, historic sights and the latest medical technologies, enormous mansions and Amish towns. We like to get our ice cream from a place that has been making it since the 1700's. Our post office is a restored barn, at least that old. New England doesn't feel so new, but it's home for us and it has a special place in our hearts. So every day Dave makes the commute from the city to our little town where the birds wake us with the rising sun and the crickets and fireflies provide our evening entertainment. And we soak it up, every bit, every day.