Let’s change the statistics

I have been noticing quite a few articles and news reports about children in the States. And adults as well.

It seems that the reports show that a high percentage of American children do not even engage in moderate exercise for an hour a day. Really? Oh my goodness. I’m living with two children who NEVER STOP moving. Running. Dancing. Climbing. Jumping.

Other articles are pointing out that many people stop reading books of any sort once they are out of school, whether that be at completion of high school, college, or grad school. So very sad. I’m thankful to be living in a home with FULL bookshelves and adults who regularly read these books. No wonder the little ones here love books so much — such great ones to choose from.

Aunt Anna reads to Milan and Alek

I’m not reading as much as I’d like to be — that is of the books that I purposefully ordered to be here when I arrived — but I am definitely reading many books over and over and over again. The boys’ books. And how sweet to have a 3-year-old ‘read’ them to his little brother, his grammy, and his parents.

Parents and grandparents, read to your children. Read for yourself. Talk about the books you’re reading.

And get out there and MOVE.

If we want the trends to change, we all need to be about changing them.

Put down the remote.

Close your laptop.

Ignore your phone.

And engage your families!!

Grammy on a mission

Grammy timeJanuary 9, 2014. And this is my first post? Oh my. Life is happening…fast and furious!

Grammy on a mission? Haven’t I been on a mission since before grandchildren? Well, yes. I’ve been a most satisfied missionary in Ukraine for over 12 years. We began said mission with our children in tow…well, not exactly in tow — the girls were 18 and our son was 16 when we arrived in Kyiv.

Twists and turns scattered our family around the globe — Kyiv, Kathmandu, Boston, Salisbury. Boston is no longer a home for our son — Salisbury is — and our younger daughter moved from Salisbury to Delmar. Fortunately those two towns in Maryland are just minutes apart. Well, fortunately for the proud grandparents! One stop and we see them all!!

Our older daughter is still in Kathmandu — though we were ALL together over the holidays, even my mother and sister in Cincinnati. That’s a first in 18 years!

Husband Jim has returned to the European side of the Big Pond and I am still in Maryland. (He will be joining be periodically, Lord willing.)

As hard as it was to leave friends and ministry in Ukraine for several months (the longest time since we moved there in 2001), I know that I am in the right place for a specific time.

Still on a mission.

This time to help my daughter with her two young sons (nearly 3-1/2 and nearly 2) while she prepares for the birth of their little sister. She is considered a high-risk pregnancy (Baby Girl has pulmonary atresia) and she will be delivering this little bundle at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Two-and-a-half or three hours away, depending on traffic. Finding someone to watch her boys ALL DAY while she and her husband make weekly visits to various departments at Hopkins is more than a notion. Energetic. Excited. Loving. Just some descriptions of the boys. It requires someone with no children — just one of them with a cold and the whole plan fails! Sweet friends have stepped up to the plate, but this Grammy was ready for the privilege, responsibility and challenge of spending LOTS of time with these little boys. Once Baby Girl is born she will require heart surgery and will most likely be hospitalized for several weeks. Grammy gets to be the ‘constant’ in the little boys’ lives.

Her delayed arrival at home will also take some getting used to, so I will be available to help that whole process run more smoothly.

Somewhere during this process (early March) our daughter-in-law will be adding a second child to her family. Here in Salisbury. Have I mentioned that I am so so thankful that they are so close geographically? Her mother will be spending two months with them, so THAT’s covered…just hoping to get some little snuggles in along the way.

For my wonderful friends here, please know that I would love to hang out with you. But that will not be too possible until Jim has arrived back as reinforcements! Unless you come to me. Or it’s a convenient time for Jeanne. I am truly here with a mission…four weeks to accomplish much!

To be clear, I am not here as a babysitter…I am here to help Jeanne take care of her children. Not INSTEAD of Jeanne, but WITH Jeanne. I didn’t give up ministry with special children in Ukraine to simply be here so that she can run around town doing this or that as she pleases. Appointments, yes. I’m here and I’ve got the boys. Bible studies? We’ll all go together. Church? We’re a team. Jeanne has never asked me to come help, but I need to be here early to see the different routines that make up the boys’ lives…that way I can simply continue with what they already know about their days.

Trust me, it is not without sacrificing important conferences, ministry, and precious time with my husband that brings me here. I know I am here for a purpose. And I love it.

Just want to make clear to all just what that purpose is.

Pray for us all as we adjust to so many changes in so few weeks!



Give thanksAs I continue this month-long series of posts of thanksgivings, today I am thankful for my husband Jim. Why? For so so many reasons. Actually I was thinking that I could probably do a month-long series of posts on why I’m thankful for Jim.

It has been an adventure, for sure, these past thirty-some years. And I cannot even imagine this journey with anyone other than Jim. He is consistently feeding his mind and spirit through God’s Word — most mornings he is up by 5:30 privately reading and praying before our time together at 7:30.

He provided well for our family when the kiddos were still home and he takes good care of me now. And this is not just from a financial perspective…he made major changes in his medical schedule to be able to spend time with his family, even though it also meant major salary cuts. Time was his gift to his family. And what a testimony when he receives hand-written notes thanking him for being dad, or skype calls asking for advice. A blessing.

Thankful for a man who can do it all! Seriously. He can run a medical ministry. He can organize conferences. Just received a note from a medical student inviting him to please be his spiritual father and mentor. Wow! But he also runs to the grocery store, vacuums, washes dishes, irons his own shirts. He serves me whenever he can.

I love that he takes the time to listen to my concerns, to hug me as I weep, to encourage me when I’m down, to smile at me just when I need to see it. We are happy being home with each other — even known to dance when the music is right — and we’re happy having company. We genuinely love to be with each other. Not that we didn’t have our rough moments, but life is better now than ever before. (I always thought that was crazy, you know, when people would say that they loved their husband more after 30 years than the day they were married…yeah, right. I was just trying to make it through another day with three young children and a busy husband. So glad I didn’t give up along the way!)

We’ve learned a lot about each other and ourselves over the years. And we’d do it all again. (Maybe one day I should post about those years — might be an encouragement to others…)

Thankful for a faithful, God-honoring, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled man.


Give thanksHow could I even go further without being thankful for Thursdays?! This is the one day of the week that Jim and I do not hear the doorbell at 9:00 to signal that the office is now open. Not that the office ISN’T open, but it’s the one day that Jim’s administrative assistant does not physically arrive at our door.

So, what does that mean? We just start our day with a little less hurriedness. (Is that not a word?! Why is it underlined as I type?) We still maintain our morning routine, but if we’re not finished praying together at exactly 9:00 we can continue. If we still have schedules to compare and discuss, we can do it.

We tend to schedule only important events so that we can be available to each other throughout the day. This week is a bit of an exception to our general rule, but we couldn’t both be physically at two special events: Jim will be visiting some precious friends for a couple of hours this afternoon and I will be joining another friend for an English movie club discussion — these groups always need native English speakers. Both events invited both of us, but that was impossible. We WILL meet for dinner, though. Last week we met together with a friend who has a huge vision for ways to help take care of families with special needs children in Kyiv. And then we went shopping…Christmas browsing and we found the sweetest little somethings for a couple of granddaughters who will be born early next year — one in February and one in March. Sometimes we go out for coffee and watch people…and dream about the future. We may spend the evening watching a delayed broadcast of Downton Abbey. Or Shark Tank. Or even Dancing with the Stars. But whatever it is, we do it together.

It’s our day.

As close to a date time as we get.

Our flat

Give thanksWhat a gift from God when we found our current flat ten years ago. We needed a place that was large enough for an American family of five (three teenagers) to have SOME space of their own PLUS an extra room that could be used for Bible studies and larger group gatherings. We really didn’t want to have the living room also be a bedroom, though that is completely normal in Kyiv.

Though two flats had been sold right out from under us — we certainly didn’t know the system well and apparently neither did our first realtor — we knew that those situations were simply God closing those doors for something better. We grinned as we heard about the first place being sold even as we were meeting with an attorney to go over the paperwork before we signed it! I remember our friends asking whether we actually understood that we were NOT getting that particular flat. We responded that we had been praying all day, as we jumped through various legal hoops, that God would make it abundantly clear to us whether we should be investing our money into the flat. So when the flat sold and we weren’t the owners, we were reminded once again that God is faithful and involved in even the seemingly small things in our lives!

So now we’re in a great flat, but there are only two of us living here permanently. Lo and behold, not long after our children began moving out, our previous mission group decided that they could no longer afford an apartment to be used as an office, so everyone needed to work from home. Wow! We had a room that we could easily use as a home office. (And though we are now our own 501(c)3 organization, we still use this space as the office.) We also have been able to open the other bedroom into a frequently-used guest room — no telling how many people have slept at our flat. Adopting couples. Visiting physicians. Friends of friends. Missionaries. And what a blessing these folks have been to us! In exchange for a comfortable mattress, we are encouraged by so many. Even now, we have a guest with us and the conversations are certainly edifying, challenging, encouraging…and bring us much joy.

In addition to overnight guests, our one larger room allows us to host various meetings — council of international Christian medical students, Coalition for Children at Risk, Bible studies, and serves as a place of rest for friends just passing through town.

So thankful for these accommodations.

Spinning plates

spinning platesMy mind is racing in so many different directions that it’s hard to focus on one thought per post. So one post to let you know that I’m here, alive and well, and much on my plate!

Our ministry is growing! Our family is growing (thrilled to be expecting two granddaughters to go with the three grandsons — all in under 3-1/2 years!)! Our vision is growing!

Please bear with me as I attempt to put everything into words. (And these are just the real biggies!) I have had so many other eureka moments that I wanted to blog about but got distracted. Maybe I’ll just go back to blogging something every day — that REALLY kept me on my toes.

…and now back to language study before my lesson tomorrow.


Ukraine means ‘borderland.’ And we were about to experience the borderland border crossing into Poland. Sooo not wanting any problems, but we knew we were not in good standing with an expired visa (kind of hard to hide when the border patrol is specifically checking such things) plus over our allotted days in Ukraine (maybe, just maybe, no one would want to bother adding and subtracting the various entries/departures).

We had already repacked our bags so that if we were removed from the train to pay the fines we would have all of our valuables with us in over-the-shoulder bags. Best to be prepared.

A few moments — hours? — of sleep and suddenly the overhead light was brightly shining directly into my eyes. Now was the time to continue praying fervently. My mind kept going back to the children’s catechism question that we had just studied a couple of weeks ago: “Where is God?” “God is everywhere.” As this song kept running through my head — in Ukrainian, mind you! — I suddenly realized … remembered … that God IS everywhere, including on this train with me. I know, I know, how could I forget? I AM a missionary, you know, so all things spiritual are always forefront in my mind. Heh. As we are always advised, speak English to the border guards to be absolutely certain that you know what they’re saying/asking and your response. New friend (see post from yesterday) was listening to our conversation and the guards called for an English speaking guard to join them. All very official. Once they checked our passports we were reminded that we had been there one month too long. Why were we there? Do you have proof of your work? When they learned that Jim was volunteering at Okmatdet (national children’s hospital), the English speaker seemed a bit softer towards us. He was not the final word, though. He was simply translating.

Passports gone. Bright lights still on. NF was playing war games on his computer. I closed my eyes, but not for long. Customs officials were now asking what was our purpose in entering Poland and what did we have in our bags. Visas. Clothes. Computers. Any money? Well, yes, we need to buy the visas. Our NF jumped in to say that Jim was a doctor volunteering at a children’s hospital in Kyiv. Okay, have a good trip. Thanks, NF! He made life a little easier at that point.

The process of changing the wheels on the train takes quite awhile — the track gauge is different in former CIS countries, so the wheels must be changed. So even though we had a break from questioning, the clanging and banging prevented much sound sleep.

After two hours, our passports were returned with a stern warning that it was not a good idea to be in Ukraine for an extended time without proper documents. And it will be difficult to return without a visa. That we knew. He handed Jim both of our passports and left our coupe.

Really? No fine? We peered around our bunks, gave each other high/low fives and thanked God that we were on our way again. Still in search of the D visa, but one huge step closer.

The light went out, though the computer games continued. Click, click, click, click as he manipulated the mouse. Thankful that we didn’t have to hear the explosions on-screen, but also thankful for a kind and helpful traveler in our coupe.

Another showing of passports as we officially entered Poland, and our NF once again told our story. Thanks again.

Next stop? Warsaw. Sure wish we had heard from our host about our reservations for that night. Another interesting story, but we had no idea what to expect…did we have a place to stay? We were confirmed in one flat near the embassy, but our host had ANOTHER flat and that’s the one he wanted to put us in. What do you do when he’s already received the payment for two nights?

And when should we meet to get the key? And where? Do we have time to go to the embassy first? And how do we touch base without the internet? Guess we’ll need to purchase a Polish sim card and see what we can find out upon arrival.

Always an adventure. And again, always good to know Who is with us through it all!

(I apologize for no pictures…but trust me…border crossings are not conducive to picture-taking…unless you want to lose your camera!)

New Year’s Eve eve

DSCN3964Jim and I spent some time last evening walking around Maidan (the main square in downtown Kyiv) and other nearby spots so that we could see the excitement building for New Year’s Eve. Our plan is to NOT be on the square tonight at midnight, but we DID want to get a feel for what’s happening.

The lights are really amazing this year. So many of the buildings facing the square and along the main street Khreshchatik are decked out with bazillions of lights!

We started at the TOP of the hill and walked down to Globus and overlooked the square. The New Year’s tree is really a beauty this year — I have been disappointed that the past years have been more commercial advertising than a festive New Year’s tree. The lights on the tree are in continual motion…adding a layer every few seconds until the full tree is lit, but only for a few seconds. Almost immediately the bottom layers begin to darken and we wait again for the brightness to return from the top down.

DSCN3970We then strolled up the street where the ‘House with Chimeras’ is located. I felt like I had stepped into Narnia — frozen gargoyles and other strange creatures amidst snow and beautiful lights. Made me pray for Aslan to end the snow and bring on spring. Very strange.

We cut through the Passage and stopped for a cup of coffee before reaching the hustling bustling street level of Khreshchatik and the Square.

Several kiosks are selling souvenirs as if we were on Andriivsky Uzviz (the shopping street), but some of the kiosks took on the flair of a Christmas bazaar. And of course lots of food and drinks were offered.

DSCN3972Huge screens with winter scenes helped create some of the atmosphere, along with a carousel (with see-through covering to protect riders from the wind!), more than a few Father Christmases, sleighs and carriages as props for family portraits, and the unfortunate headless Minnie Mouse. Children enjoyed the train ride around the square as well.

One of the large screens was more of an advertisement than adding atmosphere…no question that Bud has arrived in Kyiv and is alive and well!

DSCN3977As we slid back home on the thick ice, we thought about the revelers that will be out and about tonight and were thankful that a quiet evening at home suits us so much better. Time to talk, to enjoy special foods, and to thank God for an amazing 2012…and appealing to Him for direction in 2013.

Happy New Year!

December 16, two days later

Sunday. The 16th.

Approaching that date, as I see it coming, always affects me. Seventeen years ago my dad died on that date.

And it seems like yesterday.

And it seems like forever ago.

I remember a friend in Salisbury speaking wise words, comforting words, true words to me at that time. Among other things, Wendy told me that her father had died years earlier and she would still find herself in tears from time to time. Suddenly. Without much notice. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one.

I was thankful that the 16th fell on Sunday this year. My Sundays are busy — teaching children’s catechism before the worship service, worshiping with Jim, enjoying tea/cookies with brothers and sisters in Christ right after the service.

DSCN3890This year we were hosting the steering committee of the Coalition for Children at Risk for a Christmas celebration late Sunday afternoon. We wanted a time for members and their spouses to get together in a relaxed atmosphere, eating tasty treats and laughing heartily with each other. We all work hard throughout the year and it was so nice to have some peaceful joyful time together.

We had a somewhat lively white elephant exchange of gifts. Most of us were quite happy with our final gifts — what grammy wouldn’t want another picture frame?!

As soon as our guests left, Jim locked the door, turned and looked at me and asked, “Is it the 19th?” (The 19th was the date of my dad’s funeral.) “No, it’s the 16th.” Tears spilled over onto my cheeks, Jim hugged me close, I thought of my mom, my sisters, and my children. And then we moved on to the kitchen to finish putting leftovers in the fridge and washing a few dishes.

Thankful for a husband who lets me remember without making me feel stupid.

Thankful for a family that remembers.

Thankful for a dad who taught us all the importance of family… through words and by example.

Missing him even now.

(He would SO love his great-grandchildren…)

Phone scam

Just received this email today:

New Area Code – PLEASE READ Be sure you read this and pass it on.

809 Area Code

The person i got this from received a call last week from the 809 area code. The woman said ‘Hey, this is Karen. Sorry I missed you- get back to us quickly. I have something important to tell you.’ Then she repeated a phone number beginning with 809. We did not respond. Then this week, we received the following e-mail:

Do Not DIAL AREA CODE 809, 284 , AND 876

This one is being distributed all over the US … This is pretty scary, especially given the way they try to get you to call.

Be sure you read this and pass it on.

They get you to call by telling you that it is information about a family member who has been ill or to tell you someone has been arrested, died, or to let you know you have won a wonderful prize, etc..

In each case, you are told to call the 809 number right away. Since there are so many new area codes these days, people unknowingly return these calls.

If you call from the U.S. , you will apparently be charged $2425 per-minute.

Or, you’ll get a long recorded message. The point is, they will try to keep you on the phone as long as possible to increase the charges.

The 809 area code is located in the Dominican Republic.

The charges afterward can become a real nightmare. That’s because you did actually make the call. If you complain, both your local phone company and your long distance carrier will not want to get involved and will most likely tell you that they are simply providing the billing for the foreign company. You’ll end up dealing with a foreign company that argues they have done nothing wrong.

Please forward this entire message to your friends, family and colleagues to help them become aware of this scam.

AT&T VERIFIES IT’S TRUE: http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=6045


Just a heads up…please pass this information along to your friends.