24 March 2013

normal or abnormal

I was thinking about what we could possibly blog this week...and the phrase "share your typical week - your nomal, everyday life" came to mind.  Warning:  this may be boring.  :)  (the lack of pictures may add a bit to the boring factor)

In my mind, our week should be full of excitement and amazing life change and incredible acts of selflessness and service....but, in all honesty, it's not.  Our normal, everyday life isn't all that exciting...probably far less exciting than your normal, everyday life!

Here's a typical/normal week at a glance:

  • Communications Meeting at 7:45 (nick goes, i watch it on our tv while simultaneously getting the kids ready to go to school).
  • Eli and Caroline go to school at 8:30 (late start because of the meeting); Nick goes to work
  • Emma goes to school at 9:00
  • I go to work in the Hospital Administration Office
  • About 11:45 I go to the Dining Room to hunt & gather lunch
  • We all meet in the cabin at noon and share lunch/have our family devotions
  • Eli & Caroline go back to school and Nick goes back to work at 1:00
  • Emma lays down for her nap
  • I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 hours of lovely bliss to read and rest and respond to emails and such.  Some days I have coffee with friends in our cabin while emma naps (on Mondays I usually get to enjoy the company of the lovely Krissy Close!)
  • Eli and Caroline + 3 Bullock Boys (the children of a friend who has a meeting on Mondays after school) come home from school around 3:20.  homework gets done...forts get made (sometimes)...we go play on deck 8 (sometimes).  it's generally a loud and intense hour and a forty mintues (having 6 kids in a small space gets "interesting"!)
  • Dinner at 5 (who knew that eating between 5 and 6 would become "normal") -most days we eat in the dining room...sometimes we bring the food up to our cabin or eat on deck 7
  • On to running club for the kids on the dock at 5:30
  • Come in from running club, take showers...
  • Some Monday nights we head to Mid-Ships and eli gets to play the computer, caroline works in the cafe & emma has a "block party" with our friend 'chelle
  • Sometimes we go check on the boutique on Deck 2 to see if anything "new" came in
  • Head back up to the cabin and get ready for bed
  • Eli & Caroline & Nick head to work/school at 8:00
  • Emma has "creative movement" class at 9:00 (i get 45 minutes to do WHATEVER i want!)
  • 9:45 = TREAT TUESDAY!  (some of the moms with younger children meet in the cafe to have a snack and share some fellowship)
  • After Treat Tuesday emma and I usually play on deck 7 or have one of the other children over to play until lunch time
  • Noon -have lunch/family devotions together...eli and caroline go back to school, nick goes back to work, emma lays down....similar to mondays....eli and caroline come home from school at 3:20...we eat snacks and play and read and work on homework and such until dinner time
  • Tuesday night is always "African Night" in the dining room - rice, plantains, chicken or fish with some type of sauce...
  • Most Tuesday nights after dinner Miss Catharine comes and keeps the kiddos while Nick and I go on a date.  Date night often looks like us going running and then coming back and sitting somewhere on the ship - talking/sharing a coke/watching something silly
  • Eli, Caroline & Nick head to work/school at 8:00
  • Emma & I head to school/work at 9:00
  • Lunch at Noon
  • Same afternoon schedule as Tuesday....
  • We usually go down to dinner sometime around 5:30
  • Nick goes and plays football most Wednesdays
  • Eli has karate at 6:00
  • We usually go up to deck 8 to play after we eat
  • Come in...clean up...go to bed
  • Pretty much the same as the other days of the week
  • I have bible study at 9:15...emma goes to a friend's house to play
  • Caroline has ballet at 5:00
  • We have community meeting at 7:30 (I usually go, nick watches it on the tv) - there's always icecream after the community meeting (the kids get to eat their's for breakfast on Friday mornings...) - sometimes I have my icecream/coffee with Stephanie & Remy
  • Same as Wednesday's schedule....(minus eli having karate and ADD in waffles from the cafe in the morning!!!  one of the best parts of the whole week!)
  • Nick and I are both teaching "student life classes" this 9 weeks  - those happen on Fridays from 1:45 - 3:20.  Maybe i'll blog about those classes sometime...
  • normal day...kids come home from school...play...go to dinner...
  • After dinner we usually play on deck 8 for a bit...then come inside and have family movie night.
Saturdays and Sundays are very, very lazy for us....
  • we try to balance "screen time" with playing outside/doing creative things inside
  • one of the highlights of most Saturdays is having Josie's cinnamon rolls delivered to our door around noon.  so delicious. 
  • probably about 1 Saturday out of every 4 we'll actually "do" something - go to the island, go to the riviera, take a walk to the store....but, in general, we stay pretty close to home and don't actually do much of anything 
  • sometimes we go to the pool...sometimes we make french toast....sometimes we make amazing forts...
  • some Sunday Mornings emma and i go down to ward worship
  • Sunday evenings we go to church as a family
I've probably forgotten things...there's exercise class/running for me each morning (except Saturday!)....there's laundry that gets done and dishes that are washed....there are interactions with patients and day workers....there's the "having friends over to play" aspect of life (which is challenging for me at times)....there's school work that nick manages to get done (usually in the evenings and some on the weekends)....there are Mercy Ministries that we participate in from time to time (not "regularly" though)...there are things that happen to make life "abnormal" (in a really good way!) -- a container arrives, we go get fruppucinos in the cafe, we have a ship holiday....

In general, it all feels pretty normal....but then I think about the fact that we are living on a ship off the Coast of West Africa in close proximity to about 400 other people and that there's a fully functioning hospital 4 decks below us...and it doesn't feel so normal anymore.  But it IS normal...it's not crazy drastic.  It's not ridiculous and unheard of (or at least it doesn't seem that way to us!)

So is our life normal or abnormal?

Here's a fun comparison of the 2 words:

Usual, Standard, Regular, Ordinary, Typical, Customary, Common, Average, Natural, Habitual, Routine, Conventional

Irregular, Nonstandard, Uncharacteristic, Atypical, Anomalous, Unusal, Strange, Odd, Peculiar, Deviant, Aberrant

Most of the normal words describe us....but so do the abnnormal words.  So which is it - normal or abnormal?  Yes. I suppose it's both.   2 opposing things at the same time.  Funny how that happens. 

Surely there will be more to come.

16 March 2013

celebrating nick & eli

We got to celebrate Nick and Eli's birthdays this past week!  March 12...a great day to be born.  Eli had 2 friends (all of the boys in 2nd and 3rd grade)(plus one extra first grader who stopped by for a few minutes) over Sunday evening for a sleepover and a "day o' play" on Monday (the kids had the day off from school).  It was very low key...and way too much screen time...but that's ok - you only turn 8 once, right?! 

I feel the need to publicly admit (and apologize for the fact) that I didn't do much of anything specifically for Nick.  I kept waiting for a wonderfully thoughtful idea...but one never came...he got a card (and a bag of reese's...the day after his birthday....).  I'm sorry, sweetheart....maybe I'll do better next year :) 

The sign Miss Catharine made & put on our door. 
Eli opening a gift at his sleepover

Tuesday evening we invited friends to meet us up on Deck 8 to watch the sunset (adults), run around & play (kids) and enjoy some snacks (adults & kids).  Again, low key (that may be my middle name...) and very very enjoyable! 

The lovely & wonderful Miss Catharine!  She's the one responsible for giving us so many date nights - she keeps our kids most Tuesday nights!
Emma enjoying a cupcake

Enjoying another cupcake...she said she only had 4.

She got the "enjoyed the snacks the most" award. 

Some of the kiddos. Luke, Alex, Nathaniel, Rhys, Eli, Megan

Love this guy. 

Some adults (& emma & iona).  Me & Nick, Miss Stephanie, Anne & Rob

It's hard to believe Eli is 8.  We love the boy he is and the boy he is becoming.  What a privilege to be his parents. 
So glad God created both of these fabulous fellas.  So thankful for the way He is at work in, through and around both of them.  Praying that they will continue to become the men that God wants them to be - fully alive, fully aware, fully His. 
Surely there will be more to come! 

10 March 2013

Fode's Story

A Love Unblind
pictures & story by Mercy Ships' Staff

Fodé had been living in quiet isolation for more than a year when the Africa Mercy hospital ship arrived in Conakry, Guinea. Fodé is deaf and mute from a childhood illness; when he began to lose his eyesight to bilateral cataracts almost two years ago, he grieved for the loss of his only remaining means of communication.

According to the World Health Organization, cataracts are the leading cause of visual impairment worldwide in developing countries where surgical treatment is inaccessible. In sub-Saharan Africa, there is approximately one ophthalmologist for every 1 million people. (Source: Vision 2020). Therefore, Fodé had little hope for any medical assistance.

Fodé is 45 years old and is married to Hawa, who is also deaf and mute. They met as students at L’Ecole des Ourdes, the school for the deaf in Conakry. The first time Fodé saw Hawa, he knew that he loved her. He wrote a love letter to her, and shortly thereafter they were married.

Fode praying with Crew Member Marsha Tribe before surgery
For anyone to lose his or her eyesight to cataracts is a tragedy. But for Fodé, losing his eyesight meant losing his livelihood, as well as his ability to read, write, communicate and take care of himself. He was unable to go anywhere alone and required a constant caretaker. Hawa, along with his brothers and sisters, shared the responsibility of taking care of him. The family developed a unique signing method by moving their hands on Fodé’s chest – human touch was his last way to express himself.


When Mercy Ships arrived in Conakry, Fodé’s family began to hope – a surgery to repair Fodé’s eyesight was a reality that his family had never considered possible. When he arrived for screening, Fodé was guided by his brother. The two men slid their hands over each other’s chests in a practiced form, communicating with the unique series of hand movements only they could understand. From English to French to sign language, a message was communicated to Fodé – Mercy Ships could help. “Our entire family is blessed,” his sisters said. “Everyone in the whole family is smiling because Fodé will see.”

Because of her own handicap, Hawa did not come for Fodé’s follow-up appointment after his surgery. She waited at home for her husband, and Fodé was accompanied by his two sisters instead. When the bandages came off, Fodé blinked cautiously as the world around him came into focus. Then he brought his hands to his face and cried tears of happiness and relief. He has been released from the prison of dark isolation that confined him for the past 18 months.

And, of course, his wonderfully supportive family rejoiced! “Now Fodé is happy,” his sister said, “because he can go home and see his wife again.”

Hallelujah!  Another incredible story of life change!

Surely there will be more to come!

The Library...tour continued.

In an attempt to continue on with the ship tour that we've unintentionally been taking a break from...and to give you a glimpse into another part of our home...

Let me introduce you to the Library of the Africa Mercy.  It's located on Deck 5 - just 2 quick flights of steps below our cabin.  Much like the AFM Film Festival, we had heard much about the greatness of the library before ever arriving to the ship.  Our dear friend Mary Lou Maulsby claims that it's the best library on earth -- according to her, "people just leave all these amazing books cause they don't want to haul them home..." her theory is that they need the room for souvenirs.  The library has lived up to the reputation that preceded it.  We like it, that's for sure.

There are 2 rooms - the "main room" and the "back room" (very unofficial names!).

Here are pictures of the "main room" taken from the 4 corners of the room:

And pictures of the "back room" (this room is home to the dvd collection, among other things) - these pictures are taken from the doorway - looking to the left and then to the right:

One other random thing about the library we're thankful for: 

I think they are called "bag books" or "book activity bags"...whatever their name, they are a bag of wonderfulness.  Each bag is based on a book and has activities and ideas for play that all revolve around the book.  For instance, there's one bag based on Noah's Ark -- so there's a book that tells the story of Noah's Ark and there is an animal puzzle and a boat with figures that you can play with and a more "scientific" book about animals (it just leads you to talk about real animals...) and a few other suggested activities that help to teach the story of Noah's Ark. Emma really enjoys is when we pick up one of these bags o' fun.

Yes, we're definitely blessed by the AFM Library -- and all the resources in this library are on top of the Academy Library.  Well, technically, the Academy Library is on deck 6 and the AFM Library is on deck 5 - so it's underneath!).  What great gifts!!

Thank you, God, for the books that line the shelves in this special library.  Thank you for the hands that have held them...thank you for the generosity of those who donated each book.  Thank you for the way You've used these books and other resources to bless, to teach, to refresh, to challenge, to entertain, to encourage so many.  Thank you for a quiet place that provides respite and sometimes even escape for so many here on the ship.  Thank you for Robyn and his diligent hard work and his quiet way of serving the crew here.   

Surely there will be more to come (we've yet to show you the Laundry Room!).

03 March 2013

It's fun to have a reason to dress up every now and then

Last night was our very first "Africa Mercy International Film Festival."  We heard about this event before coming to the ship (it has quite the reputation!)....it was fun to get to experience it first hand. 
Of all the Cash's on board, Caroline probably enjoyed it the most...she managed to be in 3 of the 12 films (just quick appearances and such...but 25% of the films - that's not bad).    
'cause of course when we are all dressed decently we need to take a picture...
All crew members were invited to create a 5 minute film and submit it for the Film Festival.  On the night of the festival, the films are shown in the International Lounge for anyone and everyone who wants to come.  There is a host for the evening and a panel of judges.  Some people dress up more than others...I saw one tux and a couple of evening gowns....but, in general, just lots of pretty dresses and nice outfits. 
This year there were all sorts of creative entries...some of the entries ranged from a few lovely ladies dancing all over the place to the song "Dancing Queen" to an amazingly beautiful film called "Velo" to a rather dark entry by a few of the middle school girls to a creative look at "Africa Mercy Problems" courtesy of some of the high school girls.  All 12 of the entries were enjoyable to some degree or another!! We were pretty impressed!

The winner ended up being a hilarious "advertisement" for the Africa Mercy Assisted Living Facility.  A rather clever group of people likened our ship to a retirement community and promoted it as such - it was hilarious (it was so hilarious because, in some ways, the advertisement wasn't too far from the truth!!).  Rumor has it that it may be available on youtube sometime in the near future.  I'm sure you could search for it if you're really interested...

After we viewed the films, there were refreshments in the cafe while we waited for the judges to deliberate and return with their verdicts.  They also showed some of the favorite films from last year's festival. 
Overall, it was an enjoyable evening and a fun tradition to be a part of (and a fun reason to dress up)!  Who knows, maybe next year the Cash Crew will enter a film.  Any ideas?!

Surely there will be more to come!