Monday, May 21, 2007

05/21/07: Appalachia Part III

The day after we arrived, we began tilling the garden, building the coop, and acclimating ourselves to Appalachia. We were disappointed that the mountain folk did not come down to meet us but we were assured that they were "shy." Regardless, the chicks arrived and we continued building the coop out of boards and "things" that we found laying around the mission. Lois and Ralph both turned out to be amazing people and Stacey and I fell in love with their two granddaughter, Destiny and Kirsten, who were their permenant wards.
Kirsten is four and, at 32 months, came into the custody of the grandmother due to "circumstances" that are beyond our control and, for which, I refuse to discuss here but...use your imagination...or nightmare scope. Regardless, both girls are doing well and, while Kirsten was talking at the level of a 9 month old when she was almost 3 years old, she is so well adjusted that you'd never know the truth. In fact, she reminded me of my own daughter and, had Lois said, "Take this child and give her a good life...", that baby would be sitting beside me as I write.

Destiny was also a darling and I love this picture of her. She was posing for the camera because we were planting corn and beans. The beans are from the Bednarski's (friends) who gave them to Catherine for her birthday. It was really cool to see the actual beans from the party being planted in the ground.

I already mentioned that Stacey was an amazing sport. Here she is building a chicken coop with Ralph, the pastor guy. She never complained, even when the 50+ chicks arrived and were jumping around and she had to keep scooping them up and trying to contain them...which was hilarious. Like a comedy routine. Of course, there was also the moment when I found the 4-5 foot black snake hangin' in the mission, eyeballing our lunch...resulting in my screaming my butt off and running out of the building like a little girl who had seen a spider on my tuffet. Short story: snake is currently in 5-6 pieces and Stacey was trapped in the chicken coop, holding four chicks, yelling "Hey, if there's a creepy crawlie thing out there, can you please let me out of here????"

Sunday, May 20, 2007

05/20/07: The Mission

The drive was very dangerous, with single lane roads and steep mountains. But it was really pretty. From a community of hills and trees, we truly enjoyed the mountains and even called home to Kevin L. to ask if he knew the difference between a mountain and a hill. We finally settled on 1000 ft. makes a mountain, less than that makes a hill. Of course, we don't know for certain so feel free to advise otherwise.
And so we arrived at the mission. I must admit that, at first, I was most apprehensive and, frankly, disappointed when we arrived. The mission wasn't what I imagined...the building wasn't a clean, Florence Nightingale type building but a rectangular building built of cinderblock and full of so much crap that two dumpsters couldn't salvage it.

My sister kept a stiff upper lip and we dove right into the work. But we both thought that the pastor and his wife would be like "us"...well-to-do folks who cared about the poor...not actual members of the actual society in which we wanted to help! I have to confess that my sister was the most amazing travel companion. If we had thought that Leanne would give us the chuckles along the way, I tell you that Stacey kept me in stitches the entire journey, even during the darkest moments.

The journey itself was most interesting and beautiful. The hills are, indeed, beautiful as the man in the Shocky's Gas Station told us ("Dem mountains are be-u-t-ful but I prefer the beeches in Miami"). Of course, I asked Stacey for clarification: Did he say beaches or". We weren't sure but carried on our mission.

Once we arrived at the mission, we assessed their needs and began by buying supplies to build a garden (posts, wire, tools, irrigation hoses, seeds, and plants) as well as the chicken coop (wire, nails, hammers, boards, etc.). Within hours, I was tilling the garden soil and Stacey was building the chicken coop. It was truly amazing to dive right in and have these people that I have dealt with for over two years become more than friends...they became family.

In addition, I have to spend one moment to thank my Morris County friends who provided the funding for this excursion. I cannot thank Rosemary, Denise, and Brian enough for their donations were used 100% for these projects. My father and brother-in-law's company, Panurgy, paid for the gasoline, and my dear friend Ellen Murphy supplied twelve or so cases of gardening tools. There are many others to thank but I must thank these folks in particular (and my dear Leanne and Anne Marie for their behind-the-scenes support via parties or church associations!).

Regardless of the rest of the story, Stacey and I left Appalachia with a HUGE garden and very large chicken coop that was funded by these three Morristown residents. And we met the recipients of the goods who thanked us profusely for the donations. An entire community said GOD BLESS YOU.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

05/19/07: Appalacian 2007 Part II

I'm writing this entry after the fact so I'll be brief as I know that those supporters who are aware of what happened are simply anxious to get to the end of the story.

Stacey and I made it to Kentucky after a very, very long drive. The saving grace on the trip was her humor and Lisa Y.'s games that she sent along. Cow Poker was a big hit with 1 point per cow, 50 points for chimney's unattached to houses (i.e. the house burnt down), 500 points for peg-legged men, etc. If you saw a cemetary, your points were wiped out.

During the eighth hour of travel (as dilerium set in), we began to make up our own points...she who held a dirty child first won X points, she who contracted lice won Y points, she who was hit on first got Z points. Etc.

Needless to say, my sister won the pegged leg man contest (although the man was on MY side of the car so we have to ask Lisa Y. for a verdict). Yes, she was giggling in the car (after I was filling up gas and singing a not-so-good rendition of Johnny Cash's Burn of Fire) and made me shut the windows as she pointed out the pegged-leg guy, sitting in a van, wiggling his stump as he gave his prosthetic a breather. Of course, this was after we were scammed out of $5 from the massively obese woman in a car who saw our "Myra or Bust" on the car windows and asked us for money to help with her gas because she was empty and had to get to XYZ in Pennsylvania. Stacey talked me out of giving her ten but OK'd the $5 with the idea that, how can we be on a charity mission and deny this chick money for gas. Immediately after handing over the do-ray-me, the woman peeled out (so much for no gas) and headed for the Burger King next door!

But I digress...

We arrived in KY and, much to our chagrine, our hotel room was really "icky". We had also stopped at a police station to assess our safety status. The police man was quite kind in saying, "Everyone is poor in Pike County. Just stay out of dem hollows and you'll be OK. Once you go into those hollows, dat's when dem problems seem to arise." Stacey can do an aces impersonation of this guy. Hilarious.

Needless to say, my first comment was, "Whooo hoo, we are heading to dem dare hills!" which Stacey IXNAYED (but I won).

Up to this point, we had not been taken by the poverty and were actually asking, "Where's the poor folk?" as though looking for Amish in Lancaster. But we found them and boy-oh-boy, we should all hang our heads in shame that we live in this magnificient country and have so many people living beneath the poverty level.

Friday, May 18, 2007

05/18/07: The Road Trip (Part I)

Well, we are officially underway. Leanne hosted a kick-off gathering for collecting goods, packing the car, and sharing our story. So many friends have contributed to this mission. If I wasn't so tired, I'd write some more. But, I'm exhausted and we're pulling out at 5am so, the stories will have to wait.

I love this picture of the men trying to pack the car. :)

A special thanks to all who have given us support for this trip.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

05/17: Thelma and Louise

I noticed my sister's comment to the Road Trip posting. I deserve the noodle lashing for having forgotten to post that, indeed, I am not traveling alone. After I posted that message on 5/10, my sister agreed to go. For a while, we thought my friend Leanne would accompany us but she is going to be our home base support team(i.e. keep the kids and men in line) while we trek out to Myra, KY.

It's interesting to, once again, see who rises to the occasion of supporting our goodwill mission. Stacey's neighbors and friends from Assumption School have been fantastic. Anne Marie has been wonderful, arranging an announcement via email to her friend and through Assumption Church (once again, thanks to Fr. Martin!) for food donations so that we do not arrive empty-handed. Leanne has been the final piece of the triangle of strength, emailing her list of buddies and arranging to be the Friday evening drop-off point (complete with refreshments!).

I've also been very surprised the monetary donations which are greatly appreciated. Several folks from the kids' schools, a friend from Springbrook, my aunt in Florida, and my father's company, Panurgy, contributed toward gas money and expenses.

It's exciting to begin this adventure and to have the support and encouragement of my sister. So, in 36 hours begins a different type of Thelma and Louise style...only this one will be Stacey and Shelly style.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

05/09/07: Road Trip

Well, it's official. After speaking with Lois today and hearing how she is such a nervous wreck about the upcoming trip from the Colorado team, I knew the time had truly come:

...Road Trip.

The husband agreed I can go and, as I already posted, work gave me leave. Now, I have no choice but to pack up the truck and head out to KY. I hate leaving the kids for that long and I dread the thought of 10+ hours in a car each way but...Lois needs me and those Colorado kids are traveling to Myra to build chicken coops, create gardens, and repair houses because of my vision. If they believe in me, I can sacrifice five days without my babies and 20 hours in the car to be there for them. And for Lois...

Kentucky, here I come!

05/09/07: Boxes and Call

Received a call from Lois in KY that she received the computer and it is working. They should have Internet by the end of today. She was also a little jumpy, nervous about the upcoming visit from the Colorado team. I think she may have been crying. Anyway, I am biting the bullet and driving out there to help her through the visit. My dean gave me a leave from a conference and from work. Now, if only my husband will not get upset...

Six boxes of clothing, school supplies, and seeds mailed today. Ordered gardening tools, too.