Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Reinventing Detroit

I read an interesting article in the Detroit Free Press this week:

Acres of barren blocks offer chance to reinvent Detroit

This one caught my eye because some of my work is with community gardens using vacant land. Here are some excerpted portions of the article:

Detroit's thinning population is vividly -- some would say disturbingly -- illustrated in a new map that is creating a buzz in local planning circles.

The map shows how to tuck the land mass of Manhattan (23 square miles), San Francisco (47 square miles) and Boston (48 square miles) -- and their combined populations of nearly 3 million people -- into Detroit. All three urban areas fit snugly within Detroit's 139 square miles with room to spare.

Detroit, where the population peaked at 2 million in the early 1950s, is home to about 900,000 today and is still losing people. The depopulation and demolition of abandoned properties has left the city dotted with thousands of vacant parcels, ranging from single home lots to open fields of many acres.

Detroiters should seize the opportunity to become a leaner, greener city for the 21st Century. "What if a lot of the vacant land was allowed to begin to become green?" Pitera said. "Could Detroit truly become the greenest city in the United States?"

This abundance of vacant land has people talking about new uses, such as urban farming, reforesting the city, and large-scale recreational areas.

Whatever happens, clearly Detroit is evolving early in the 21st Century as a sort of blank slate. Instead of looking at shrinkage as a problem, many planners see it as an opportunity. Detroit has a chance to invent an entirely new urban model, they say.

Whether it's farming or greenways or a network of thriving urban villages connected by transit lines, the solution could be uniquely Detroit's. And the likelihood is that the rest of the world, already fascinated by Detroit's urban drama, would take notice.

Personally, I think using some of our vacant land for small scale sustainable agriculture and for urban forests sounds wonderful. I really do see Detroit as a huge opportunity for transformation and new beginnings. Because we're so low and so broken, there are almost infinite possibilities for our future. Yes, there are major, major hurdles facing this city, but in the end I have a lot of hope. I was disturbed, though, to see so much venom, animosity and absolute hopelessness in many of the comments. Beyond hopelessness even, to a spirit of hatred and wanting Detroit to fail. But I also read a number of very positive and creative ideas coming from people looking with hope towards the future.

Any thoughts or comments?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Scott's Home!!!

My brother Scott is home from his 13 months in Iraq! My parents went to the base to meet him, but it was too far away for me to go. Dad took pictures and Scott called me from my mom's phone. I promptly got off the phone and cried. Praise the Lord for keeping him during this time.

The plane coming in
Troops beginning to deboard
Here comes Scott!!!
Everyone came in the hanger and the troops marched in in formation before they could greet their families
Scott's just to the left of the guy with the red jacket
Here is one happy mama with her baby home
Scott with Mom and Dad

Friday, October 24, 2008

Detroit Part 2: Kids Club

As you’ve seen previously, we have a number of boys who live on our block. In an effort to have a consistent time with them once school started and to establish some much needed order and boundaries for me, we have Kids Club at our house every Thursday after school. We make snacks, play games, do crafts, hang out, talk about the day and just have fun together in a safe, loving and healthy environment.

Last week we made fruit pizza. It is certainly not the healthiest snack ever, nor the most frugal, but it sure is fun! I made and baked a cookie dough crust before they came, got the “sauce” ready (cream cheese mixed with powdered sugar), and had the fruit all cut up. They spread out the “sauce,” and arranged the fruit.

Ways to pray:
- Grace for me to love these kids selflessly and sacrificially and to be patient and understanding with them
- Wisdom in advising them how to deal with difficult situations they face in their lives, including handling conflict and violence. Sometimes what I would tell them differs from what their parents would tell them or from the "rules" of the street. I know that my experiences growing up are so different than theirs and I don't always understand what they're facing, but I'm trying hard to teach them a different way.
- Healing for D from past hurts and freedom for him from anger and fear

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Detroit Part 1: Breakthrough

A friend pointed out recently that I need to change my profile, seeing that I am no longer a graduate student. An updated profile is still coming, but in the next week or so, I'll be sharing with you several aspects of my work, life and ministry here in Detroit. We'll start with Breakthrough.

This week was the third week of the year at our Breakthrough Enrichment Program. On Tuesday nights, about a hundred kids come to Breakthrough, where they eat dinner and then have Bible, creative arts and academic enrichment classes. I co-teach the kindergarten, first grade and second grade academic classes. If the kids have homework, we help them with it, and we do activities with the rest to reinforce the skills they're learning at school. My main goals in the class are for them to know they are loved, to see that learning is fun, to develop solid reading, writing, math and problem solving skills, and to stay as close to grade level as possible.

Here are some of the precious kids that I get to teach every week. I love them so much and I am very proud of them:

Ways to pray:
- For the LORD to provide for the children's physical, emotional and spiritual needs - for adequate food, shelter and clothing, for love and security, for physical safety in their daily lives
- For a spirit of confidence and hope over self-doubt and fear, that they would not be trapped by the labels people have put on them
- That each of these kids would know Jesus and be transformed by him
- That the LORD would protect each of them from the forces of darkness that are so strong in this community
- For wisdom among the teachers and leaders as we work with the kids - to see beyond the surface to understand what they really need and to know how to deal with the various discipline and personal issues that arise

Friday, October 10, 2008

Getting some answers

I took all three of the cats in for vet visits this week. Mostly they were well kitty check-ups, but there were a few things I was concerned about with each one. The fact that we had a stray infant kitty in our house recently (separate from the others, of course) was another impetus to take them in and just make sure they were all okay. When the vet and techs heard that we’d had new cats in the house who had been outside a lot without testing them for a few common kitty diseases, they decided we should do some tests. Marshal tested positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), the feline equivalent of HIV. He’s fine and healthy right now, and many cats live for years FIV+ without getting sick. But we know to keep him away from other cats, keep him inside and make sure he gets regular checkups. Fortunately, I took Kate’s cats in today for their checkup and they both tested negative. This means that Marshall and Miles most likely got FIV from their mom. This explains a LOT about Miles being sick. I didn’t write much about him being sick in the spring because, really, who wants to hear about recurring rectal prolapse? But the underlying issue was that he kept getting infections that he just couldn’t fight. He seemed to have a compromised immune system. Now we have a pretty good idea why.

FIV is not something routinely tested for in the shelters because the test is somewhat expensive and only about 3% of healthy cats have it. At first I wished we’d known. We probably would have let Miles go a little earlier, knowing that he was almost surely not going to get better and spared us all a lot of pain, expense and drama. I’m a little torn though, because if we’d known they were FIV+ we probably wouldn’t have adopted them. Once they were ours, I wouldn’t have traded them for anything. Marshall is a great, fun, healthy cat and knowing him now I would hate for him to have been put to sleep as a kitten. I’m also really glad now that the cats didn’t get along very well and that Joey and Dorian have been living separately from Marshall, even though it was frustrating at the time. Even in this, I see God’s grace and faithfulness.

Monday, October 06, 2008

A little absent minded

Check out how I made the bed last week:

The funny part is that I totally emptied and repacked my backpack on the bed without even noticing that I hadn't pulled the comforter up. I didn't notice until I walked by the door later in the day and was shocked when I looked in and saw the bed like this. I collapsed on the bed cracking up, but Dave only thought it was funny that I was laughing so hard.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Inch by Inch

… order is emerging. I’m finally (I think!) learning to change one thing at a time. A couple months ago, I cleaned off the credenza in our dining room and put a little sign (mostly for myself) saying, “Please do not set anything here.” After a couple weeks, I was in the habit of not setting things on the credenza and could take the sign down. It’s been nice and neat ever since:

Well, over several weeks that included being sick, being out of town and just generally being busy, both the kitchen and the dining room table had turned into disasters. Like we-can-barely-make-room-for-the-two-of-us-to-eat disaster. Check it our for yourself (I can't believe I'm posting this!):

Last week I cleaned off the dining room table (my first version of “shining the sink”). Every night I’ve made sure that the table is cleared off before going to bed. So far so good.

We’ve spent a few extra minutes cleaning up the kitchen each day and today I spent a bit more than a few minutes (2.5 Dave Ramsey podcasts and then some) finishing the job so that all the dishes are clean and put away, the counters are neat and clean and the sink is empty. It’s not shined, but it’s clean and dry. It feels SO good.

Dave was working all of today and I had no other commitments, so I took advantage of time on my own and got a lot done:
- paid some bills
- balanced the checkbook
- went to the bank
- mailed several items at the post office
- washed dishes
- baked 2 loaves of banana bread
- put away dishes
- made a big batch of refried beans
- washed more dishes
- peeled and cut up 5 butternut squash from our garden
- cleaned the kitchen
- took out the trash
- talked to my parents
- wiped down the dining room table
- emptied the cat litter boxes
- read a few chapters of a novel

It feels good to have gotten a lot of things done, but most importantly to celebrate the accomplishments rather than beating myself up for all the things that haven't been done yet. I think I can live with this kind of change!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

New source for used books

Yesterday afternoon I went to our local recycling center to drop off a load of cardboard. While I was there, I took a few minutes to go through the book bin and boy am I glad I did! . Someone had obviously been going through their cookbooks and gotten rid of a large stack. I love cookbooks, being of the "read them like novels" persuasion, so I was excited to see them. But I was absolutely thrilled when I pulled out The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen!

If you aren't familiar with her work, she's most well known for the Moosewood Cookbook, a classic vegetarian cookbook that I've had my eye on for a while. Granted the cookbook in the bin was the older version, not the new one (which is what's featured in the link above), but I still can't believe someone would just throw out such a gem! In fact, there were TWO of them in the book recycling bin. I gave the second one to the gentleman who was eyeing the other vegetarian cookbook in my stack.

I am so glad I took the time to dig through the box and am thrilled to have a new source for free used books! (By the way, we also got an old but working computer monitor out of the electronics recycling bin once to use when our monitor was on the fritz)

Friday, September 26, 2008

New Windows!

We officially have 4 new windows in our house! That might not sound too exciting until you see what we were replacing:

This window has been cracked since we moved in, so we taped it up just like that last owners and put plastic over the window for the winter. The first floor of our house has all of the original windows, but the 2nd floor has cheap aluminum windows that were replaced a few decades ago. Besides one being broken, they are very energy inefficient, are always coming out of their tracks and are very difficult to open and close. So we used some money from Dave's grandparents to replace the above window, which was the worst, and the three windows in our bedroom, which we use the most. Maybe in 7 years when medical school is all paid for, or when we have little ones sleeping in the other rooms, we can do the rest of the windows upstairs.

We got aluminum clad wood windows from Kelly Windows, a local, family owned company that has manufactured their own windows for several decades. They do a lot of work for historic homes and can install windows without taking off the interior trim (woohoo!). I asked what happens to the old windows, knowing that both the glass and the aluminum are recycleable. The windows go in the dumpster, but they have a regular group of people who go through the dumpster to pull out anything salvageable.

This brief discussion about buying locally helped push me towards getting windows from a local company instead of from Lowe's. And after spending a few hundred dollars more for these windows and feeling oh so good about it, I have no qualms spending the extra $30 to buy dry-lock from our local hardware store. Thanks guys! We also briefly discussed getting vinyl windows instead, knowing that vinyl is standard for our neighborhood, but we knew that the long term environmental and financial costs would be way less if we did it right the first time and they don't need to be replaced again in 10 years. Besides, vinyl windows were not much cheaper and were of way lower quality than the wood windows.

You know what the best thing is about having new windows? I don't have to clean them!!! ALL the windows in our house were filthy when we moved in, and most had remnants of ivy stuck on the screens. With everything else we've been doing in the last year, deep cleaning windows just never made it to the top of the list! Dave's mom spent a couple hours cleaning ONE window in the kitchen (which looked amazing - check out the picture below of the half cleaned window!) and I was NOT looking forward to cleaning the rest. Now I have 4 windows that I don't have to clean. Hurray!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Life as the wife of a resident

In case you don’t know, my husband is a second year surgery resident. I’m really proud of him – he’s smart, he works hard, and he’s done a great job in his surgeries lately. But it’s an interesting and often crazy life. Fortunately, he’s in the post-80 hour work week world, meaning that he’s not supposed to work more than 80 hours a week. It’s averaged out over 4 weeks, which means he could work 100 one week if he works 60 another. But on average, he works 70-80 hours a week.

This is one of those weeks that’s been a little more crazy. He’s worked 50 hours already this week and it’s only Tuesday! Did I mention that I’ve only seen him for an hour and a half since Friday morning. I’m getting pretty good at being on my own when I know he’ll be gone, but I’m still having a hard time when I expect him to be home and he’s not. Since he was working Sunday night, I expected Monday to be an earlier day, but he didn’t get home until 8:00. So surely today would be earlier, right? Ha! I’m happy that he was able to do the case he did tonight, but I was about to cry when he called at 7:00 to say they were starting a case and that he wouldn’t be home for a few more hours, especially since I knew I would be gone tomorrow night and wouldn’t get home until nearly bedtime. That makes six days straight in which we will have seen each other for only a couple hours total. I know it could be so much worse. I have friends whose husbands are deployed and others who are on their own all the time, with and without kids. But it’s still hard and it still takes a toll on us.

I hear his car (it needs muffler work), so I’ll close now. Please pray for us that God’s grace would be sufficient, that we would find our joy in Him and that He would draw us together in deeper unity.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Recipe help needed

I have fairly large quantities of (opened) mayonnaise, miracle whip, mustard (yellow and honey dijon) and salad dressing (many varieties) in my fridge leftover from a family event. As these are not items I typically use in large quantities, I'm looking for some recipes or creative ideas for how to use them. I'd rather not let them go to waste and I need them to start moving out of my fridge, as it's getting a little too full! Thanks!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


- The funeral went really well. Definitely a celebration of a long life well lived. It was really good to be together with family and celebrate my grandma together. Scott got in town Monday evening before the visitation ended.
- It was so sweet to be able to see Scott, even if it did throw all his plans off, and I saw him less than I would have according to the original plan. He’s had a great time at home, visiting with friends and eating lots of different kinds of food. He goes back Saturday morning.
- On Saturday, Dave and I went hiking for a couple hours at a state recreation area about an hour from here (kinda sad that we have to go that far just to get some forest, huh!?). I was literally craving some time in the woods and boy was it refreshing to get out of the city and into nature. We spent some time thinking and reflecting about where we are and where we’re going. We also decided that we need some time out of the city and into nature at least once a month, even if it is only a few hours.
- I was really sick on Tuesday. Like vomiting every hour sick. Marshall spent the whole day by my side, which was really sweet. I’m feeling mostly better today, but I’m still not eating much and was still out of breath walking up the stairs this morning.
School has started and I can’t believe how quiet our street and our house are! It’s a welcome break, but I’m starting to miss the boys!
- As of last week, my Wheaton College education is paid in full, just in time for our 5 year reunion! It kills me that it took so long to pay it off, but in the end we didn’t pay much interest because we paid it off quickly when it was not deferred ($2500 in 6 months before grad school and $5800 in 8 months after). I wouldn’t trade my time at Wheaton for anything, even having those loans to pay back, but it sure feels good to have them completely paid off. Now it’s on to medical school loans…

Monday, August 25, 2008

Scott's in Dallas!!!!

Praise the Lord! My dad just talked to Scott and he is in Dallas, which means he should be in Louisville this afternoon and they'll be able to drive up yet this evening. Thank you so much for all your prayers. God is so good.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Prayers for traveling speed

My brother is on his way home from Iraq. I didn't mention it before because his leave got switched around and he was planning to surprise my parents when he got home. He left his base on Tuesday this past week, before we knew anything with my grandma. But, I just talked to him and he's still in Kuwait. He was supposed to leave yesterday, but now he's scheduled to leave tomorrow instead. If things go well, he may get here Monday and be able to drive to Ohio. But he may not get in until Tuesday, in which case I don't know if he'd be able to get there in time. First of all, we thank God for His timing in having Scott already on the way home. But now we're praying hard too, first of all for for peace in his spirit, since he went from being super excited about coming on leave to finding out that Grandma died and realizing that all his plans for visiting with family during leave are shattered. We also need God to work in a mighty way in his travel arrangements so that he gets here in time. He is supposed to go from Kuwait to Ireland to Dallas to Louisville and then drive to Ohio. Please pray for favor, speed and safety in each leg of his travel. Thanks

Friday, August 22, 2008

My Grandmother

My grandma is in her last few hours. Please pray for my mom and her sisters as they say goodbye and that she would hang on long enough today for my mom to get there to see her before she goes.

Update: My grandma fought the good fight and has overcome this world. She died around noon. My mom did not get there in time to see her, but was able to talk to her on the phone. Two of my cousins who live nearby went over this morning and read her our favorite story that she used to read to us as kids.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Juggling Life

Lest you think I have it all together, which, ahem, none of you did anyway, I’m really struggling with order and discipline in my life right now. I did really well all through school, all through college, and even in my first two years of graduate school. But the last two years have been a constant battle to maintain order and routine.

One major challenge for me is having no external structure created for me, like classes meeting at a certain time or assignments due regularly. I do have external responsibilities and things that are expected of me, but no established routine or structure to it. I’ve been learning how to impose my own structure on my life and develop my own routines, but one of the challenges lately is that so many things seem to change so often. I start getting into a routine and something changes again. I feel like I’m juggling 10 balls, but every few minutes new balls get thrown in and others get thrown out. And the existing balls keep changing size and weight while I’m trying to juggle them. I’m dropping balls all over the place!

Another major challenge is that I’m very analytical and I have a hard time not over-analyzing everything. It’s really quite comical when I articulate to my dear husband all the things that are running through my mind even over something so simple as putting a load of laundry in the washing machine. This paralyzes me and then I start getting anxious about it all. Having order and routine to my days both imparts structure and takes away the constant re-analysis of what I should be doing when and what comes next, but I’m having such a hard time making it happen.

I’m really good at budgeting money, but really not so good at budgeting time. When I think about what works for me with money, one key is that we set aside money in a number of categories. This means that I’m not constantly making choices between spending money on groceries or spending money on clothes and therefore continually recalculating where all the money should go. Instead, there’s a certain amount of money for each, which gives me freedom to spend money on groceries since I know clothes are taken care of. At the same time, I know that I only have so much for groceries, so I have to use it well. I’m making choices within each category, but not between them, because those choices are already made. I don’t have the same overall structure to my time that I have with my money. I keep trying to establish a routine where I do certain types of things at certain times – having periods of time that are set aside for CDC work, responsibilities for church or things I need to do at home, but every time I start getting into a workable routine, it seems like something else gets thrown in the mix and I don’t know how to keep it in balance. I think one issue might be that I’m trying to be too flexible to accommodate everybody else and I end up giving away my order and routine. I guess I need to guard my time boundaries as closely as I guard other boundaries.

The main reason I’m writing this, aside from helping me think through it, is to ask if any of you have any thoughts, insight, experience or encouragement that might be helpful to me or to others. What do you find that works for you? What do you struggle with when it comes to using time well or balancing different aspects of your life. Have you read any good books or articles lately about time management? Please do share. And please pray for me, that I would be set free in this area, because I know that God is a God of order and not of confusion and disarray.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gotta love it

People often ask me how I like living in Michigan. I've been here for five years (can you believe it!?) and I've mostly gotten used to it. There are definitely things I miss about Kentucky (hills, anyone?) and about Louisville (it really is a fabulous place to live), but we do have things in Michigan that are hard to find anywhere else. Here are a few pictures of the gorgeous Upper Peninsula from our trip with my parents at the end of May. We visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Tahquamenon Falls. The weather was gorgeous while we were there, unlike the previous week when they had snow. Eek! Like I said, I'm mostly used to Michigan. To this Kentucky gal, May means warm, sunny and lots of flowers.

We did get some fabulous flowers, albeit south of the bridge:

And I'm getting better at depth of field:

Where else do you get fresh water this blue?

... and rock formations like these?

... that break up and wash up on the shore as stones like these?

Where else do you find beach grasses in such bright colors?

... and waterfalls so perfect for photographing?

Oh, I forgot to mention that Dave and I realized on this trip that within two months we had seen four of the five great lakes along with the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In two years, we touched or swam in three quarters of the world's oceans. Seeing as we're not too likely to swim in the Arctic any time soon, we'll have to be content with that!

More pictures available here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

At Home with the Boys

One day last week I had 8 boys playing at my house. D had gone with me to the bank and grocery store, and wanted some cereal when we got back since we had gotten milk while we were out. There were a few more boys around when we got home so I invited them in as well. The next thing I knew, we went from 4 boys eating cereal at the table to 8 boys doing puzzles, playing with legos, helping me cook, and playing with our giant pick-up sticks game. 5 of them stayed for dinner to try what they’d helped cook. They had a lot of fun and I enjoyed having them here. It’s exciting to see our relationship with each of them developing and to know that they feel comfortable and loved at our house. While we were cooking, one of them said that he wished I were his mom, and I had no idea how to respond. I don’t know his mom or if he even has a mom in his life, so I couldn’t tell him that he has his own great mom. All I could think to say was that I’m happy to be his neighbor.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

New cats

Did I mention we have two new cats at our house? A friend of ours is on sabbatical for a few months, so we're keeping her cats, Dorian and Joey, while she's gone. We've had them for three weeks now and we're still in the introduction phase. It takes a while for cats to get used to each other, so we have them in three separate parts of the house and are gradually introducing them to each other. We're at the point where we're feeding Marshall and Joey together, then separating them again. I think they're pretty close to being able to be out in the house together without being aggressive toward each other. Maybe another week or two.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tough Day

Today was a really hard day. The community garden that I've been helping coordinate was pretty much destroyed by a well-meaning volunteer group. So much of what we've been working for in terms of community building through the garden was destroyed, along with all the promise of a good harvest. I'm really sick about it. I don't even want to eat, and I'm not usually like that. I'm sad, frustrated and angry. We were going to pull up a few plants and replace them with raised beds because of some issues with lead in the soil. When I arrived at the garden this morning, whoever was getting tools and materials out had pulled out EVERY SINGLE THING in the garden and even disassembled and thrown away the raised beds we'd already built. I was too shocked to even know how to respond. I'm too much of an appeaser and I didn't want the volunteers to feel bad that everything had been ruined, so I tried to play it off and ended up letting them go ahead with things that I really wasn't comfortable with because I didn't know how to say no. They kind of came in and took over. I know that nothing can bring back what we had, but I still feel like we need to discuss with the leaders of the group and let them know that it was not acceptable to come in and pull up our whole garden without having someone on site to give them the go ahead. It makes me just want to quit and give up on this garden. I feel like the vision we had for the garden has been destroyed and, in a lot of practical ways, cannot be recovered. Please pray for me for grace and peace, for wisdom to know how to respond to this, and that God would do something amazing out of this broken situation. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Update on our neighbor

Sorry to leave you all hanging. Thanks for your prayers. I think everything is okay. He stayed at our house that night and has been home with his dad ever since. I think knowing that he always has our house as a safe place down the street helps him to feel more secure and confident. I don’t think he’s in any real danger; he just has a dad who doesn’t know how to love him very well. His dad never had a father to show him how to be a dad. I also think that his dad is doing a little better knowing that we love them and are supporting them. He was at the point where he didn’t know what else to do with the kid and they both needed a break. I think he’s been able to take a breath and is therefore more ready for continue with the tough parenting challenges he’s facing.

The biggest thing for me now is having spiritual discernment to know how to respond to the kid. Several times I’ve responded in an appropriate way with my parenting skills and instincts, but what he really needed emotionally and psychologically was something different, which I didn’t understand in the moment. I have an amazingly insightful and wise neighbor who understands a lot just by observing him and has given me some really good insight and tips. There are several people I work with at CDC who have been praying for us and have given me some very wise counsel on how to approach relationships with children and parents in the neighborhood and how to approach difficult family situations. I’ve also been reading several blogs of adoptive families since friends of ours adopted their kids in Ukraine, and these have given me a different perspective on a number of relevant parenting issues and helped me understand some things about where this child is coming from.

As difficult as this can be sometimes, I’m really glad to be here: to be available to love on people, to walk alongside them, to suffer and rejoice with them, to feed them and to teach them. I know full well that I’m just scratching the surface; This family situation is nothing compared to what many of the young people in our neighborhood are facing. But I want my heart to break with the things that break the heart of God and I want to be a part of his work to make people whole, to bring healing, peace and justice to this community, and to help lift the burdens of poverty and injustice.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

fully immersed into urban ministry

Life in the city is always interesting. We have a major situation tonight and our neighbor kid is sleeping at our house right now. Please pray for wisdom for us to know how to handle this and pray for peace for him to be able to relax and sleep tonight. Dave goes to work at 6:00 am tomorrow and works until Thursday, so I will be on my own and will definitely need your prayers. Thanks

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Home again, home again

We were in Chicago last weekend for a wedding, then I left Monday morning for camp with the CDC kids. We had a great time and just got home this afternoon. The cat is very happy to have some company. More later...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


My keys have been found. I feel like such an idiot. After leaving a long reply literally 1 minute ago about how I still hadn't found them yet, I went to get ready for bed. I picked up a few papers that I had taken out of my purse this morning and set on the bed, and sure enough, there were my keys. I must have taken them out of my purse along with the other things and forgot having ever touched them. By the time I was ready to leave, I couldn't find them. I searched everywhere, all over the house, and did not think to check under the papers I had just put down. At least I have them, although I was looking forward to getting everything picked up and put away tomorrow. Maybe I still can :)

Missing Keys

If anyone happens by here today, please pray that my keys will reappear. I have searched the house from top to bottom and cannot find them anywhere. They have to be here somewhere because I used them to unlock the door when I came home yesterday. I have an extra car key and house key, but I don't have a key to my bike lock and the lock on our gate, both of which I needed to bike today instead of drive.

In the meantime, this is a good exercise in not being anxious, but trusting God for everything. It's also a lesson in organization, telling me that I should always keep things in the same spot. I obviously don't have a good spot for my keys.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


We have been graced with a very tall (i.e. as tall as our two story house) mulberry tree in our backyard. Mulberries aren't my favorite berry in the world, but they're not bad and they're growing in my backyard for FREE, so you'd better believe I'm going to pick them and use them! (Mulberries are technically not a berry, but a cluster of individual fruits; however they look like a berry, hence the name mulberry - what did we do before google!?) I put some on vanilla ice cream last night and on my cereal this morning. I looked up some mulberry recipes this morning, and some of them sound really good: mulberry jams, pies, muffins, ice cream, coffeecake, cheesecake - yum! Now I need to find a ladder so I can pick or shake down more than just what I can reach, and have enough to make some of these things. Yesterday evening, I picked about 2 cups, which is great for eating, but not enough for cooking.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The dilemma of buying local

We try hard to buy as much as we can from local sources, including local businesses. We have a fabulous, family-owned hardware store that's been in our neighborhood for decades and carries a little bit of everything. There are a few things they don’t have and every now and then we have a desperate need for something when they’re not open. Otherwise, we try to get what we can there.

Here’s my dilemma right now. Big box stores can often carry products at lower prices because they buy so much and have homogeneity among their stores. A lot of the time, items at the hardware store are much more convenient and are fairly similar in price. We want to drylok our basement walls, to keep moisture out and keep all the minerals from being pulled out of the bricks. We’re going to need 7 to 10 gallons to do the whole basement. Lowe’s sells it for $22 a gallon. At the hardware store, it’s $26. That’s a difference of $30-$40! If I hadn’t seen it at Lowe’s before looking at the hardware store, I would have bought it there and never known the difference. On the other hand, if I hadn’t thought to check the hardware store, I would have gotten it at Lowe’s and not felt guilty. But since I do have all the information, I don’t know what to do. I’m torn between my frugal self and my socially responsible, wanting to support local businesses self. I don’t know which will win out in this case.

Any thoughts on how to decide when to buy locally versus when to take advantage of the cheaper option?

Friday, June 13, 2008


I did it. I officially submitted my thesis to the graduate school!!!! Whew. It’s been a long and difficult journey and I’m glad to be done. It’s time for some healing and renewal and time to move on to the next stage in the journey. Praise the Lord for his faithfulness to the end. And a very special thanks to my wonderful husband for constantly supporting me and believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Thanks to everyone else too for the hugs, prayers and encouragement.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Surviving the Craziness

Wow. How can I be so tired when it’s only Wednesday? And we still have a crazy week in front of us!? Dave went in to work at 6:00 this morning and works through the night. Theoretically, he should work until noon tomorrow, but he has to go in for a medical procedure at 6am. So he’ll leave at 5:00, come home to get me (so I can drive him home when he’s done) and be at his normal hospital signed in at 6:00. He’ll be zonked out most of the day on Thursday. On Friday, he goes in again at 6am and works until noon on Saturday. We’re supposed to go to a graduation open house in the afternoon and then have a hospital dinner for all the graduating interns and residents Saturday night. Sunday morning, he goes back in again at 6:00 and works until noon on Monday. He’ll come home to sleep on Monday but I’ll be leaving about the time he’s getting up. This means that he’s working 84 out of 126 hours between today and Monday. Originally, he was supposed to be at his hospital this month and have this weekend off. His schedule was also just right for the procedure on Thursday. But when he showed up for work the first day of the month, he got a page from the other hospital (where he sometimes does out rotations) asking where he was. It turns out he was scheduled to be at the other hospital for the month but nobody told him, and it wasn’t listed that way on the schedule he had. It kind of threw our June schedule into disarray and created this crazy weekend, but that’s life as a resident. Pray for us if you would. When the schedule gets this crazy, we don’t really see each other much and our communication tends to be less than ideal.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Good times with the neighbors

On Friday night a major storm came through and took down a large section of one of the trees near our house (the limb was a good 10 inches in diameter, plus all the branches, and long enough to stretch all the way across the street). So at 11:00 at night, we had 12 people from the block using 2 machetes and a handsaw to clear the tree from the road. It was a really great time to interact with neighbors and to meet a few new ones. Plus there was discussion with some of the ladies about wanting to revive the old block club. Fortunately, no one was hurt and it left only a few very small dents in the one car it hit. Several other cars around the corner were not so lucky, though.

We’ve also had more interaction with D, the kid from down the street. We met his dad recently. D’s been over riding bikes with Dave and stops by our house every couple days. Yesterday he came by and had dinner with us. We called another neighbor who came over with her daughter to join us. Good times.

I think we’ll see a lot of D this summer. We’re glad to be two more adults with a positive role in his life, but we also realized last night that we’re going to have to work hard to get the right balance loving on him and setting boundaries and being firm with him. I think I also need to adjust the amount of food I have on hand for snacks and meals!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

No news and sad news

First the “no news” – contrary to what I may have led you to believe in the last post (completely unintentionally), we are NOT expecting a baby any time soon. Just wanted to clear that up. It’ll probably be at least a year or two before we’re there. And don’t worry – I will let you all know! I meant it would be good preparation someday, but not today!

Now for the sad news – our little kitty Miles has been sick for several months. This weekend he got much worse and we were at the point where there was really nothing left we could do. So this morning we had to take him in and let him go. Lots of tears. The vet looked like he was about to cry too. He’s been working so hard for this cat for several months and never thought it would come to this point either. I don’t think I realized just how much I loved him until I had to let him go. He’s spent most of the last two months laying in my lap while I worked, but really not feeling well or being able to play like a healthy cat. He was a really sweet little guy and we’ll miss him a lot. Marshall is definitely acting sad and seems a little upset - like he can tell something's wrong but he's not totally sure what it is.

Friday, May 16, 2008

On why having kittens is good preparation for a baby:

- they wake you up crying in the middle of the night
- they want to be held all the time
- you’re always cleaning up their poop
- they’re so much fun when they snuggle up with you
- they need to be fed every few hours
- you worry when their poop’s not normal
- they do things they’re not supposed to do to get your attention
- they take afternoon naps
- you wish they could talk and just tell you what’s wrong
- they need time to play, unwind and just be a cat
- best of all, they’re sweet, cuddly and love you back

They may not smell as sweet as a baby, but they PURR!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Enjoying the sunshine

This is Marshall's new favorite spot now that spring has come and we've opened the windows. He can sit for hours looking out the window (and he is a very active cat!) The only problem, though, is that he's getting too big to fit on the windowsill unless the window is open. Notice the size differential between the cats. Marshall no longer looks like a kitten and I think Miles will look like a kitten for the rest of his life! He's had lots of recurring health issues and he's still a teeny little kitty, weighing in at just over 3 pounds. If anybody has any good ideas on how to beef up one cat while slimming down the other, please do share!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Strength for the Moment

Wow. God is good and knows exactly what I need. I forget that sometimes.

As you very well know if you’ve been reading my blog for ANY length of time, I’ve really been struggling to finish my thesis. It has honestly been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, for a number of reasons, and not just the typical ones. I was planning to write more about all of that when I was done – we’ll see. Anyway, it has been such a struggle, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I know that I’ve come so far – I turned in my draft, I presented and defended. Two of the three last big steps are done. All that’s left is editing, revising, rewriting and clarifying the things my committee pointed out. It’s the last major push. But I’ve had such mental, emotional and spiritual blocks all week long, not to mention the car drama and other distractions (but that didn’t get me down this time! ☺) Now I’m definitely under pressure to get it done. The deadlines are getting closer (yes, I’m one of those deadline people).

Well, as I was getting down to work this morning, a dear friend from church called to check on me. I’d been on her mind for a few days. She hadn’t seen me for a while and just really felt led to call and see how I was doing. She’s one of those people who I don’t know super well yet, but still have a deep connection with. I was able to explain what my struggles were right now, as well as the victory of not letting myself be dragged away and discouraged by the distractions this week. She prayed for me right then, with obvious power and insight from the Spirit. It was exactly what I needed at just the right moment. Thank you Jesus. This season is almost over. The struggle is almost won. May the Lord be glorified in this work. I can't wait to look back on all of this with time and see what God has done.

"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4

Thursday, May 08, 2008

We are back in business!!

With the cars, at least. The other resident who was on call at the hospital last night offered to let Dave take her car home and bring it back when he came in this morning, so Dave got to come home! Hurray!! First thing this morning, we took her car to pick up Dave's car from the shop. I drove Dave's car back to the hospital to get my car. The plan was to have my car towed to the auto shop near our house, then I could walk home from there. But the car started!! We wondered if the problem last night was because of the rain and it was. The distributor cap was pretty old and was leaking. The best part is that the repairs for both cars weren't nearly as expensive as they could have been. We were thinking we could have an issue with the starter and the brakes could have ended up being quite costly. Also, we should be getting our rebate check next week, which will cover these extra expenses without having to dip into the emergency fund, since our car repair fund has run out. It means that less will go to paying back student loans, but it also means that our emergency fund remains intact should a real emergency arise. I guess this way some of our "stimulus" rebate will go toward two local businesses.

Now if only I could get all my thesis edits done in the midst of the other craziness... (PLEASE keep praying for that one - for diligence, focus and the ability to think and write clearly so I can GET THIS THING OUT OF MY LIFE and move on!!)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

and another one bites the dust...

So Dave just called from the hospital. Now the other car won't start. It's not a dead battery - it turns over; it just won't start. The first car is still at the shop, since we had no way to get there to pick it up today before they closed. I planned to go with Dave on his way to work tomorrow morning to pick it up. So he's stuck at the hospital and I'm at home and we currently have no car in our possession that is working!

In the grand scheme of things, I know it's not that big of a deal; we'll definitely survive. I've lived without a car before and the majority of people around the world live their whole lives without a car. But it helps when you can plan on it ahead of time! It does mean that Dave can't come home and I can't run the errands I wanted to run that are not within walking or biking distance. But at least there are beds and food at the hospital. Dave's going to see if the person on call tonight might be able to drop him off in the morning to pick up the first car. In the meantime, we'll figure out what to do with this car!

I realize now that I could have taken the bus to go get his car, but since it would have involved several transfers on the bus, walking several miles in the rain at either end of the bus line, or taking my bike along and then trying to fit it in the car once I got there, I figured it would be easier to just wait and go in the morning. It just happens to be at a mechanic's shop across town because it was closer to have it towed there and because we knew our normal guy was closed already and it's not a safe place to leave a car outside overnight.

I'm sure I sound frustrated, and I am a bit, but I also find this quite ironic and a bit humorous! I'm not sure how much this is an attack on our work and ministry or if God is trying to grab our attention for something, but I'm praising Him right through if it's an attack and my eyes are open if he's trying to show me something.

I just looked at the bus schedule and it looks like Dave could ride the bus home, and ride it back again in the morning in time for his morning lecture, but it would be an hour and a half each way. I think I'd just as soon stay at the hospital than spend 3 hours on the bus, even if I could sleep in my own bed!

Well, I'd better get back to the pot of soup on the stove...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Showing off Detroit

Last weekend, out friends Shaun and Courtney came to visit before Courtney leaves for Kenya for the summer. On Saturday, we showed them some of the sights around Detroit, including the Heidelberg Project, an outdoor art exhibit addressing many of the urban issues in Detroit (read more here and here). One of my favorite parts is the dot house:We had a picnic lunch at Belle Isle (complete with Dave climbing the rafters!)We also visited the Conservatory. I had never been before and it was amazing! Plus, it’s free! Here’s a sampling of what we saw:

It's a nice spot for taking family pictures:
And silly ones too:
I love this picture of Shaun and Courtney, though Courtney finds it less than amusing, since most of their wedding pictures look like this too!
I took a zillion pictures of the tulips out front, in an attempt to practice my photography skills, but most of them didn't turn out very well. I had the shutter speed and aperture balanced well for the lighting (yes!), but I think I had the shutter speed set too fast to capture the details of the petals very well. Here are a couple that were okay:
Harold the pug also got quite the photo shoot:
Since we live 5 miles from Canada (is that crazy or what!?) and Shaun had never been, we HAD to make a trip to Canada. Shaun was super-excited, so we documented everything.
We went 5 pin Canadian bowling, since it's something you can only do in Canada. Try explaining to the immigration officer why you have to come to Canada to go bowling! Since it was Saturday night, they had music and lights and our shoes glowed.
We had a fun time and I love showing people the various sides of our city. And just imagine, YOU too could have this much fun should you decide to visit us in Detroit!