Thursday, June 28, 2007

Whew! It Has Begun!

Well, the upheaval has definitely begun. I almost took pictures of what our apartment looks like to post on here, but I was ashamed of the disaster it is and lost my nerve. But let me assure you, it is a disaster! I am extremely pleased, though, with how far ahead we are on packing and getting rid of stuff. We decided to sell a lot of our belongings and furniture so we don't have to pack it up and move it! Hopefully when we come back, we'll be settling someplace for several years, so we'll actually want to outfit a house with more than our hodge-podge assortment of hand-me-down and Goodwill furniture.

So my sweet husband has taken an affinity to Craig's List, and it's been amazing how fast our stuff has sold! Every day I get another email from him... "Just sold the dresser." "Just sold the desk." Yesterday he sold our TV and VCR, so I'll be doing a lot of reading for the next 2 weeks without it! :) It's wonderful to have some extra cash, though, and we're thankful for how easy it has been so far.

Also, selling the furniture is definite motivation for me to get to work packing the things that are inside it! I had to pack the books because we're selling the bookshelves out from under them! (Those are still available, by the way, so let us know if you're interested! ;) ) So there are boxes everywhere, and I'm thrilled with progress.

So that's really all that my life is these days. Selling, organizing, and packing. And I love it. Just 10 more days! (But who's counting?!)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What to Do With the Elderly?

Justin had an experience this week that really got me to thinking. He got a part-time job with a company that does in-home assistance for the elderly or handicapped. Most of their employees are trained healthcare workers, but they also need some people to just go help out with regular things like housework, grocery shopping, or even just to sit as a companion with someone. So Justin took the job with the understanding that those are the kind of calls he would get. Last night, he got his first call to assist an elderly couple with their evening routine. The husband had Parkinson’s disease, which makes him basically immobile and entirely unable to do anything for himself. So this job turned out to be way more intensive than Justin felt he was qualified or trained for. However, my wonderful husband with his courage and his servant’s heart jumped right in there and did what needed to be done. I’m very proud of him for that, but that’s not the point of this post.

The point is that it really got me thinking about the elderly and the difficulty of making decisions for their care. When Justin got home and was telling me about how difficult his time there was and just how difficult this couple’s life is overall, my first thought was “They need to be in a home.” That just stopped me in my tracks, though, because who am I to make that kind of judgment? I can't even fathom how hard it must be to watch yourself and your spouse growing older and losing the ability to take care of yourselves, and what a difficult decision it would be to give up your independence and leave the home you’ve lived in together for so long. But yet what’s the answer to getting the care you need while still maintaining your dignity and your independence and your privacy and all the other things I can’t even think of right now? I honestly don’t know. I do have a few thoughts on the issue even though I can't draw any conclusions, and maybe one of you will be able to add in some better ideas and thoughts too.

First of all, one of my favorite books ever is called Leota’s Garden, a fiction novel by Christian author Francine Rivers. It addresses this issue in a heart-wrenching way and will really make you think about stuff. I highly recommend it, and anything else she wrote for that matter.

Secondly, just this Sunday in Bible study we looked at some Scriptures that I think are applicable here. We’re going through the book of 1 Timothy, and this is what it says in verses 4 and 8 of chapter 5:

“If a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God… If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
To me, that’s pretty clear about who God wants to take care of the elderly… their own family. (This verse is talking about widows, but I think the principle can be applied to aging parents in need even if they’re both alive.) I think it’s neat that in verse 4 it basically says “After all your parents and grandparents have done for you, you OWE them!” And if you think about it, it’s true. They spent years feeding you and bathing you and changing your diapers, so you don’t need to be too proud or selfish to do that for them in their old age if they need it. Better you than some stranger in a nursing home. However, that is REALLY easy for me to say now, but I know it would be REALLY hard if I actually have to do it someday. Not only just emotionally and physically and mentally would it be difficult to care for an aging parent, but financially too.

And this brings me to my third thought on the issue. I think that decisions on how to care for me when I’m old will never be easy, but I think they’ll be a lot easier if I can provide the finances to do what is necessary. That’s why we’re saving for retirement now. We’re young and feel like getting old is a really long time away. But ask your parents and grandparents if they ever thought they’d get old and see what they say… So no matter how old you are or how healthy you are, please PLEASE start saving for your future. You never know what will happen to you and what will come up, and wouldn’t you rather be prepared for any eventuality? And it's never too late to start saving, so even if retirement is uncomfortably close for you, saving now will still help you down the road.

Last semester, Justin and I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, and it revolutionized our way of thinking about this kind of stuff. If you haven’t been through this course, please look on Dave’s website and see if there are any near you. No matter what your situation or how much you make, you can ALWAYS save if you’re willing to make some sacrifices. Eat out less, make that pair of shoes last one more month, buy off-brands, and start investing that money instead of blowing it! I don’t know much about investing because Justin is our financial dude. But please, if you have any questions about what we do or what Dave recommends (Yes, we’re on a first name basis with Dave Ramsey!) or how to make your specific situation work, ask him! He may not know, but we’ll find out for you. Because this is IMPORTANT. You can’t trust Social Security to come through for you. Sheesh, my PARENTS can’t even trust Social Security to come through for them, much less anybody in my generation. We have got to be wise enough to plan for that and have what it takes to provide for ourselves. Get health insurance. Get life insurance. Get long term care insurance when you reach 60. Make out a living will so that the doctors will know your wishes on how you should be cared for and your sweet spouse doesn’t have to try to make that decision on whether or not to pull the plug.

I don’t want this to sound morbid – it’s just reality. Our bodies were not meant to last forever. We were meant to live on this earth a while and then move on to the next where we get a new body and a new name and there will be no more death or pain or sorrow! In the meantime, let’s be wise about how we live in this world. Taking care of the elderly is a difficult and sensitive issue, so let’s do what we can to make it easier on those we love when our time comes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Another One?!?!?!?!

So you all remember last year when we had the mouse in our house? Well, apparently its brother moved into its place and has now met the same fate. Sit back and let me tell you the tale. If you're squeamish about rodents or gross things, you may want to pass on reading this story.
For the past several days, I've noticed this smell when sitting on our living room couch. It smelled exactly like dog food to me. It wasn't incredibly strong and it seemed to come and go. So I figured maybe the neighbors had gotten a dog and they fed it right on the other side of the wall the couch sits next to. However, yesterday evening I was sitting on the couch and it suddenly hit me. Those neighbors got evicted. Nobody lives there. Uh-oh. So I'm sniffing around the couch trying to figure out where it's coming from. Sniff, sniff. Pillows are fine. Sniff, sniff. Seats are fine. Sniff, sniff. Whoa, it's definitely coming from behind the couch. So I pull it back from against the wall, and there is a dead, decomposing mouse back there!!!! GROSS!!!! Who knows how long it had been there?! We never even heard it scratching around in the kitchen or anything, it just showed up dead under our couch! No wonder our bug problem has been getting worse! GAG! So I called my bold and daring husband who promptly rescued me and took the thing to the dumpster. It did leave a gross and smelly spot on the carpet, but I scrubbed it last night and I think we might have gotten it taken care of. Are you kidding me?! I'm SO ready to get out of this $#&*@^% apartment!!!!

P.S. The above picture is NOT what the mouse in our house looked like. I couldn't find a picture that would satisfy me for that. So instead I posted a picture of the R.O.U.S. (Rodents of Unusual Size) from The Princess Bride. Gross rodent, great movie.

P.P.S. So here's my question... Why does a decomposing mouse smell like dog food?! What do they put in that stuff anyways?!

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Trip to the Ocean

No, we're not taking a random vacation to the beach. I'm talking about my sweet husband taking me to the movies last night to see the third installment of some of my favorite movies: Ocean's 13. Now, I'm going to do my best to avoid any spoilers in this post, so if you haven't seen it, please feel free to keep reading. Let me start by saying that Ocean's 11 and Ocean's 12 are two of my favorite movies. Part of the reason why I married Justin is because he had them both on DVD. (Not really, but that was an excellent bonus I discovered after we were married!) I watch them all the time, and I just love the characters, the relationships, the story lines, the cleverness of the gags, the script, all of it. Love it. Ocean's 12 is, in my opinion, the ONLY sequel in all of history to be as good as, if not better than, the first movie. When I learned that they were coming out with a third one, I tried to keep my expectations low. I mean, could they really do it a third time? Well, let me say, I loved it. I was right and it wasn't as good as the first two, but it was still excellent.

Since I'm not giving away any of the plot, let me just make a few notes about the movie. First of all, I LOVED the Mormon brothers' increased airtime in this movie. They played a greater role in this one than in any of the previous, and there wasn't one scene with them in it that wasn't hilarious. A few of my favorite quotes from Turk:

"I was trying to extend to you an olive basket and you spit in my face."

Virgil: "I'm trying to make you taller, you're classified as a midget in 34 states."
Turk: "Yeah? I'm an animal in the other 34... 24... 22..."

Secondly, there were apparently several references to the Godfather in this movie that will appeal to all you Godfather nerds out there (a.k.a. all males). I didn't notice any of them, having only seen the Godfather once, which was one time too many. But Justin raved about them in the car on the way home. Thirdly, Brad Pitt didn't look so good. The rest of the guys all looked pretty much the same, except for those who were supposed to look worse. But Brad looked old, had big old bags under his eyes, and was all wrinkly looking. My only guess for this is that he's spent too much time under the African sun, and he's stressed out with all those African babies at home. He was childless when they made Ocean's 12, and now he has like 14 kids at home. Who can blame him for looking worse?

Fourthly, the only thing I didn't like about the movie was that neither Tess or Isabel even made an appearance. We didn't even hear their voices on the phone, for cryin' out loud! So there was a distinct lack of intelligent, or even entertaining, females in this movie, and that's probably the reason I didn't like it as well as the first two.

Having said all that, though, I loved it, and I'm inexpressibly thankful to my sweet husband for seizing the opportunity to take me. What a dear. I will say that I'm kind of hoping they don't make any more. No need for an Ocean's 37. Let's keep the good thing we've got and not ruin it, ok?!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Monkey See, Monkey Help

I read an article in the May edition of Reader's Digest that really moved and amazed me. It was about an organization called Helping Hands Monkeys, that provides monkey helpers for the diabled. Yes, monkeys. Specifically, they train Capuchin monkeys to do all sorts of tasks around the house that a disabled person wouldn't be able to do alone. This allows those who are physically handicapped to still maintain a great deal of independence and dignity. This was moving in itself, but what really tugged at my heartstrings was the way those who have received these monkeys share about how deeply attached they become to their monkeys. One of them said "It's somewhere between having a daughter and a friend, and a pet and a personal care attendant all wrapped in one."

Reader's Digest told the story of a man who had been in a car accident and become totally paralyzed from the neck down. The only thing he could move was a couple of fingers to operate his wheelchair. After his fiancee and her son left him, he spiraled into a dark depression. But then along came Minnie, a 20-year-old Capuchin monkey helper. She not only enabled him to live independently, but she brought him joy and the affection he so desperately needed. He says that Minnie saved his life.

At Helping Hands, they specifically breed these monkeys and give them very intense training to become helper monkeys. For the first five years of their lives, they live with a nondisabled foster family just to become socialized and have a fun and healthy childhood. Then they spend 2 years in Monkey College where they learn how to do a host of amazing things. They are trained to respond to laser pointers and about 30 verbal commands. When a monkey graduates from Monkey College at the age of 7, it can switch on/off the lights, open a bottle and put a straw in it, operate a microwave and serve food, clean up trash, switch on a TV or computer, select a CD or DVD and operate the player, turn the pages of a book, brush hair, open and close drawers, turn a faucet on/off, open the refrigerator, open a jar and pour out its contents, and take care of their own bathing and grooming. Amazing!!!! These monkey can live to be 40, so that gives them a solid 30 years of being able to be helpers.

Capuchin monkeys are specifically well-suited for this job because of their strong and nimble hands/arms that allow them to do intricate work with their fingers and lift over half their bodyweight (a mere 4-5 pounds). The Reader's Digest story told how Minnie's owner could use his laser pointer to select a movie, and she would get it and put it in the DVD player. Then he could say "popcorn" and she would go to the pantry, get out popcorn, put it in the microwave, pop it, take it out of the microwave, take it to her owner, open the bag, make sure it wasn't too hot, and then feed it to him (helping herself to some of it too!). I'm just blown away.

So now that I've inspired you for the day, I'll leave you with this bit of trivia. Capuchin monkeys get their name from an order of monks of the Catholic Church called Capuchin Friars, because the markings in the monkeys' fur resembles the traditional look of one of these friars. This is also where the drink cappucino got its name. I learned that from Trivial Pursuit. :)

Monday, June 11, 2007

100% Money-Back Guaranteed Funk Repellent

I haven't blogged in a week because I've been in a serious funk. I had no idea what was wrong with me or why, but I just lost my motivation. I stopped sleeping at night, had bad dreams, developed a twitch in my left eye, and my diet went out the window. I just couldn't summon the energy to care about eating right anymore. For those of you who know me, you recognize that this is serious. I was cranky and irritable. Poor Justin didn't know what to do with me. I didn't know where it was coming from or why, but I figured it would eventually pass and I just had to be strong and wait it out. But duh, Joni. You carry around in your purse a 100% money-back guaranteed funk repellent. If this can't banish the funk you've been in, nothing can. But this can. It's the Word of God.

Today, after talking about it with some friends, I realized the source of the problem. It's stress, and the root of that stress is fear. We are about to make a big change in our lives, and I have been telling the truth when I say I'm excited about it and looking forward to it. I am. I believe this is exactly what God has for us, and I believe He has great things in store for us through this adventure. However, I'm scared to death. When I went to Africa, I failed miserably at what I went to do because I could never completely let go of my inhibitions to embrace the people and the culture. I learned the language quickly and easily, but as far as suspending my judgments and being humble enough to really express love to the people in the way THEY could understand, I had zip, zilch, nada. Language hero, missionary zero. So this bad experience on my record is really affecting the way I'm looking at this upcoming trip. I recognize the mistakes I made in Africa, and I feel like I'll be able to learn from them to do a whole lot better in Moldova. Having a husband there who understands the culture better and can help keep me accountable will help a lot too. So I know it'll be good and fine and wonderful.

However, the enemy doesn't want me to enjoy this or to trust God to make this a wonderful experience and bring good from the bad experience in Africa. He wants me to be afraid and stressed out. I realized today that I've been letting the enemy have his way with me - I've been succumbing to his whims without even a fight. Well, I'm on to you, O wily one. From now on, you won't get me without a fight.

On my lunchbreak today (which is when I usually have my quiet times and read the Bible), I just laid all this before the Lord, confessing that it never even occured to me in the past week of suffering to just turn to Him with it. I think maybe that's one way the devil gets us with his attacks - he makes us think we should just handle it on our own instead of going to God with it. But I can't handle it on my own, and the twitch in my eye proves that trying is more than I can take. As I prayed and the Holy Spirit brought all these truths to my attention, it was seriously like an 18-wheeler was lifted from my chest. I just wanted to sing!!! I'm not a lunatic or bipolar... It was the devil attacking me with fear and throwing my past failures back at me. Well, Mr. Crafty, the Lord has redeemed my past mistakes and promises nothing but good things and hope in my future. (See Jeremiah 29:11 & Romans 8:28 if you want proof.)

To top it all off, the Lord just confirmed all this in the passage I read today in my normal reading through the Bible: Isaiah 12.
1You will say in that day:"I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.

2"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation."

3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4And you will say in that day: "Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.

5"Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. 6Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel."
As I read those words out loud to the Lord, I could barely continue speaking for my tears of joy. He Himself is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation. He has turned His anger away from me to give me comfort. I will shout and sing for joy, for great is the Holy One of Israel and He is here in our midst!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I Know Where I'm Going...

...Moldova! Many of you may have already read about this on my husbands blog (here and here), and if you haven't you'll want to check out what he has to say about it. He tells all about the job he's taking and the specifics of our journey, so I'll just give my own perspective and more about what I'll be doing! We are SO EXCITED to finally have a plan and a goal to work toward, at least some direction for this next step in our lives. My sweet husband has accepted an internship in Moldova that uses his degree and is pretty much EXACTLY what he's always wanted to do. So we're really excited to be able to get a taste of what it's like to work in Justin's field and to maybe get a vision for where he would like to head on a more permanent basis.

So what the heck is Moldova? many of you may be asking. It's a former Soviet country in Eastern Europe, sandwiched between Romania and the Ukraine.

We'll be living in the capital city of Chisinau (pronounced ki-shi-nev). On this map it's that little red dot under the second O in Moldova. Read more about the country on its Wikipedia page.

When are you going? I just this very day submitted my notice at work. My last day will be Friday, July 6th. We'll take the weekend to pack up and then on Monday, July 9th, we'll drive all our stuff to Kentucky, where Justin's parents have graciously agreed to store it for us. We actually plan on selling most of our hodge-podge of hand-me-down and Goodwill furniture, and then we'll just start over when we settle someplace after this stint in Moldova. We'll spend about 3 weeks in Kentucky and Ohio visiting family and raising funds. (Make sure to read Justin's blog about our fundraising! We need your prayers and your financial support if you're able!) Then our departure date for Moldova will be around August 1st. We plan to stay 5 months so we can be home in time for Christmas with our families.

So what will you be doing while Justin is interning? That's an excellent question! I'm so glad you asked! If you have any suggestions, I'm open! No, really. I hope to be able to get a job to earn some money and get me out of the house. I have some experience teaching English as a Second Language, so I may try to do something like that, but I'm totally open. I haven't really even started research on that. But now that we have specific plans and dates, I can start the search. Please pray that I listen to God's leading on what He would have me do and that He brings the right opportunity quickly.

How are you feeling about all this? Many of you know that I had an incredibly difficult 2-year mission experience in West Africa in 2002-2004. That has been a huge growth point in my life, and God has worked wonders in me over that experience. I haven't been overseas since then, so I am a little nervous about how I'll do in this new place. I am, however, supernaturally calm and confident about this, which I recognize as the Holy Spirit telling me that this is what He has for us. I am just excited about the opportunity and really thrilled at my husband being able to seize this chance to get a feel for how his passions for Christ, economics, business, and development could all fit together. So we are thrilled at this chance, and as you read in my blog just a couple weeks ago, I feel like this is the perfect time in our lives for such an adventure.

So are you just going to fall off the face of the planet for 5 months? Not at all! Moldova has really good communications infrastructure, so our internet access will be great. I'll be able to email, and I plan on doing a monthly email newsletter. (Let me know if you want to be on the list!) I also plan on using a blog (I haven't decided yet if I'll use this one or start another just for that venture) to keep everyone updated even more often with pictures and stories of what our life is like there. So by the end of our stint there, you'll know way more than you ever wanted to about Moldova and about me... :) Pray for us!

Sunday, June 03, 2007


I had an adventure at work on Wednesday with my friend and coworker, Lindsay, and I've just been too busy to be able to get on here and tell the story. But now I've got a leisurely Sunday afternoon ahead of me, so sit back and enjoy my tale...

The church Lindsay and I work at is a rather large church that will often offer assistance to those who call in and need help with their rent or electric bill or food. Tracy is the secretary who handles those calls. So on Wednesday morning, Tracy got a call from a woman named Sally*. Sally had run into a bit of hard luck and needed help with her rent, and the church offered to pay a portion of it. When they do this, they make out a check to the person's landlord so we know the money is actually going toward rent. Usually the landlord is an institution like Blair's Cove Apartments, but occasionally it's just the name of a person. In Sally's case, the landlord's name was Linda*. I don't know what exactly transpired on the phone, but Tracy seemed uneasy about making the check to Linda, like maybe Sally wasn't being truthful and was trying to cheat the church out of money. So she told Sally that when she came in to pick up the check, she would have to bring photo ID proving that she really was Sally.

Tracy, however, had to take her child to a doctor's appointment that afternoon and just left the check with me, making sure to emphasize that I shouldn't give it to Sally unless she offered photo ID that she really was who she said she was. I was a little nervous about being given that task, but I agreed to do it since I'd heard Tracy on the phone with Sally emphasizing to her the importance of bringing ID with her. I figured surely she'd bring it and everything would be fine.

In our office, Tracy handles the requests for money and Lindsay handles the requests for food. So since she understands dealing with people who are asking for something, I went back to her desk and confided with her the story so far and asked for her to maybe offer me some moral support when Sally came to get her check. She said she would gladly deal with Sally and to just call her when she came. But the afternoon passed and Sally didn't show up, so I had kind of just put it out of my mind.

Finally, at 4:00 p.m., a woman walks in and introduces herself as Sally, asking for her check. I say, "No problem, I just need to see your photo ID." She gives me a deer-in-the-headlights look and starts digging through her purse, talking about how she's sure she didn't have any with her, she must've lost it, etc. She showed me a car insurance card and a credit card receipt with her name on it, but nothing with a photo. So I explained to her that I'm not the one in charge of handling this, I was just instructed to only give this check to Sally if she had some photo ID. So she starts getting teary-eyed, telling me about her hard luck, being fired from her job, boyfriend walked out and left her, she's going to get evicted... She carried on like this for 5 full minutes. So I told her that I would call Tracy and see what she told me to do, but I really didn't expect that I could give it to her. So I go to a different room to call Tracy, but she's got her phone turned off. So then I buzzed Lindsay at her desk and asked her for some backup, and she (like the wonderful friend and superwoman that she is) said "I'll be right there!"

So Lindsay comes up to the front and talks to the woman, telling her the same thing I did. We're not the ones in charge of this, and we were told specifically not to give the check to someone without photo ID. So after about 10 more minutes of listening to her sob story, Sally seems to realize that we're really not going to give her the check, and she says "Well, I may have an old driver's license in the car, but it's expired so I figured it wouldn't work." We assured her that would be fine, and please go get it. So she goes out to look for it in the car, and she's gone for at least 10 minutes.

While she's out at her car, Lindsay took the phone number she had given us that was supposed to be her landlord's number, and she tried to call it. She said an answering machine picked up but there was nothing identifying who it was, so it could've been anybody's phone number.

Then Sally came back in with her photo ID, and so I looked at it. I looked at the photo, yes indeed it was her. But then I looked at the name and realized... She is not Sally, she's Linda! She had us make a check out to her, all the while claiming that she was somebody else and that her own name was "her landlord!" I said, "Well, Linda, I'm sorry but we were told that Sally would be picking up this check, and I won't be giving it to anybody but her." She got this look on her face like BUSTED! and scrambled to grab her stuff while saying "Um, I'll have Sally call you," while she fled out the door.

So although it was a grand, exciting adventure and I'm proud of Lindsay and I for being discerning and watching out for the church's interests, I'm still sad that there are people who go to such lengths to take advantage of the goodwill of a church! When Tracy came back in the next day and we told her our story, she said she gets that kind of thing all the time, and it's getting harder and harder to figure out who is actually needing help and who's just running a scam. That makes me both sad and angry. So in the meantime, Lindsay and I will take seriously our charge of being SCAMBUSTERS, and making sure that the church is really helping those who actually need it!

*Names have been changed to protect those who may or may not be innocent.