Thursday, March 7, 2013

Palmer Home: Wednesday and Thursday

I need to give a big shout out to Phillip, who brought his laptop on this trip. I had no idea we'd have wifi here, so when I found out we did, I kicked myself for not bringing a laptop to blog. Thankfully, Phillip had his. Thank you, Phillip!

Hopefully you saw my What We Wore Wednesday (WWWW) post - we had a lot of fun with it. We did a lot more on Wednesday (other than dress up and strike poses for the camera) ... so here's a glimpse into things. Also, I apologize for it being a shorter post. The Internet decided to get really buggy yesterday, and it took me hours to do that one little post ... and there are just better things to do here on a service trip besides waiting on the Internet.

I forgot to mention that on Tuesday, Palmer Home's director came into our breakfast, gave us some history about Palmer Home, and thanked us for coming to work. He made several good points, but one of them really resonated with me: He thanked the students for taking their spring break to serve others, and mentioned that he wished he had spent his college breaks learning to serve instead of taking fun trips for himself. There's nothing wrong with fun trips, but there's something to be said about learning how to serve the Lord and love others during "your" time. I'm thankful for each of these twelve students and for their willingness and desire to serve others and love well during their free week. (I kind of feel like a mom saying this, but oh well: To the parents and grandparents reading the blog, thank you for raising your children so well. They have had servant's hearts all week long, are full of joy and energy, and clearly love Jesus. I am so thankful for each of them and am grateful to those who have loved them well and shown them how to serve and give selflessly. Thank you!)

Yesterday morning, Ms. Helen took us on a tour of Columbus. We saw a lot, and I have a lot to share, but here are a few of the highlights:
Rebekah at Tennessee Williams's house. Rebekah is a theater major, so this was a major highlight for her! (Doesn't she look excited?)
Matt and Phillip pretending to dive on Tennessee William's bed
Friendship Cemetery has a lot of famous graves. This shot shows the graves of Confederate soldiers. This cemetery is where Memorial Day originated.

Columbus has a number of antebellum homes. I can't remember the name of this house, but it's supposedly haunted by a ghost named Nellie who etches her name on an upstairs window.

After lunch, we got back to work, and our group did a variety of things. Most of our girls priced, sorted, and cleaned the Palmer Home thrift store. They found some great outfits at the thrift store - you can see yesterday's blog post for some of those photos, but here are a couple more:
Nicole, Kayla, and Ansley sporting matching bowling shirts
Lexi, Nicole, Ansley, and Rebekah hit up the formal wear
Kayla cleaning the cases at the thrift store

Hannah and I finally completed the bathroom wallpaper removal project! I've showered and I'm still pulling tiny pieces of wallpaper and glue out of my hair. Hannah and I are incredibly sore and have been trying to figure out how to stretch and relax our tired muscles. (Some photos of the crazy, contorted positions that we put ourselves into for hours to get that wallpaper off those walls are included below.) If you saw the WWWW post, you'll see me claiming the bottle of Snuggles fabric softener as my "perfume." Hannah and I have smelled amazing for the past two days - I bet most of y'all know you can mix fabric softener and water in a spray bottle and use it to soften stubborn wallpaper. It's pretty potent stuff, and I'm thankful for the fan Ms. Helen gave us to provide some fresh air. I think my nose (and sinuses) will be just fine never smelling that fabric softener again. (I can't use it in my laundry due to skin issues anyway.)
Hannah took this photo of me (she worked high above me most of the day). I was squished on the floor working on the last stubborn bits of the wallpaper. Got it!
Thank goodness Hannah is small and could fit up there! She is a trooper for staying in the most awkward positions for hours over the last couple days.

Our guys probably feel similar aches and pains  - they've been busy clearing brush and hauling lots of stuff. Yesterday, they spent a good part of the afternoon on the roof of the admin building blowing off leaves and bagging them. I spent a good while trying not to worry that one of them might fall off the roof, but thankfully, they are all safe and sound. The Lord has blessed us with no injuries good health this week (minus a little poison ivy and several of us with allergies ... thank you, Mississippi).
Brett working on the roof of the administration building

Last night, our group spent time together sharing what we're thankful for and what we've enjoyed on this trip. It has been so enjoyable -  I've loved being with our crew, and they've loved being with another. It was such a joy to hear what the Lord's taught them, see the fruits of their labor this week, and watch them interact with these precious children. I really hope KSU RUF can continue a relationship with Palmer Home and that this isn't a one-time trip.
Sharing (and listening) about what we've learned and done this week
Ms. Helen found some sparkling cider (obviously non-alcoholic) and gave it to our crew. After we shared, we did a toast!
Today, half of our group went to the thrift store. Our guys helped haul and move furniture, as well as load up furniture for some of the customers. The girls sorted, priced, and cleaned the store. The other half of our group worked in the greenhouses with Ms. Mary. Palmer Home has gardens and greenhouses where they grow their own food (to eat and to sell at the farmer's market).
Matt found a pair of Carhatt overalls (sadly just slightly too small). Kayla found an excellent 80's prom dress with a strange slit in the front.
This is from Anna's phone, and it did something funky with the sizing. But this is Rebekah, Ansley, and Aubri working outside the greenhouses on new plants.

Ansley is holding cilantro - the plants are smaller than your pinky finger!
This afternoon, most of our crew headed back to the thrift store. Anna and I stayed back at the apartment and did some deep cleaning, as well as three loads of laundry. We organized the linen closet and refolded everything. Everyone has just arrived back here, and we're cleaning and showering to get ready for dinner and then RUF at Mississippi State! I'm so thrilled to go back. (I haven't been back since I graduated in May 2010.) It will be strange just to sit there and not be responsible for anything, worrying about PowerPoint, or trying to figure out where I hid the nametags. Whew. :) RUF is hosting a formal after large group, and my gang wanted to attend, so we're going! As I type, the ladies are getting themselves extra beautiful and are doing a wonderful job sharing the small bathroom. :)

It has been a great week, and I'm thankful for the time that I've had with our group. I won't be blogging tonight due to RUF and the formal, but I'll try tomorrow or Saturday with a wrap-up of the trip. Please pray for us tonight as we worship with State's RUF, and pray that we would rest well tonight. Also, pray for traveling mercies as we head back to Kennesaw tomorrow (no hitting deer, wrecks, flat tires, etc.) - and please pray that we stay well. (Two of the Florida RUF girls have a stomach bug, and that would be bad news for any of us, especially with traveling tomorrow.) Thank you for your prayers and support!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What We Wore Wednesday: Palmer Home style

This afternoon, I had a mild stroke of genius for today's blog. I'm planning on doing a "real" blog post today about what we did, but I wanted to do a fun one.

So ... this blog post is dedicated to the lovely Jen Bowen! A bunch of the RUF ladies read her blog (you should, too), and she's part of a crew that participates in fun things like WIWW (What I Wore Wednesday). Today is Wednesday, so I thought the Palmer Home crew would show Jen (and the world) what we wore today. Jen does all these cute things like telling the brands of the clothes she's wearing, shows her accessories, etc. We didn't quite do that with everything ... or anything. But hey, we hope y'all enjoy it anyway. :)

Giraffe sweatsuit: Palmer Home thrift store (PHTS)
Headband: Target
Redneck hat: PHTS

Headband (it's actually a man's tie): PHTS
Suede fringe jacket: PHTS
Blouse: Liz Claiborne (PHTS)
Skirt: PHTS
Boots: American Eagle

T-shirt: Belmont University bookstore
Arm bangle: Palmer Home bathroom wallpaper
Perfume: Snuggles fabric softener
Jeans: American Eagle
Close up of the wallpaper arm bangle

Headband: Walmart bandana
Lime green stretchy sparkly two piece dance costume: PHTS
WWJD bracelet: Lifeway bookstore

Sunglasses: Target
Clothes: Walmart
Accessories (ladder): Home Depot

Headband: Palmer Home bathroom wallpaper
Shirt: Evan's closet
Shorts: Evan's drawer
Feet: all natural + Palmer Home bathroom wallpaper remnants
Headband close-up

T-shirt: RUF KSU
Shorts and leggings: Nike
Headband: Walmart
Vest: PHTS

Shirt: Atlanta Braves
Dress: PHTS
Shoes: New Balance

Hat: The Masters
Jacket: Mountain Hard Ware
Jeans: Gap

Hat, sweater, skirt: PHTS
Lime green heels: PHTS
Leggings and socks: ?

Jacket: Walmart
Jeans: Target

Rebekah and Kayla rocking matching plus size mother of the bride/business suits

Sunglasses: Target
Shoes and pants: Her closet
Shirt/jacket (what IS this?): PHTS

There you have it - our "What We Wore Wednesday"! This took over an hour (slow Internet/too many connected devices), so we may not have another post for tonight. We shall see. Thanks for reading - hope y'all enjoy. :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Palmer Home: Tuesday

First of all: Shout out to the mommas/dads/grandparents of my students who are reading the blog! Y'all have wonderful kids and I love them a lot. Thanks for raising them so well and sending them to Kennesaw. I love being with them! (And to everyone: Please feel free to leave me a note or comment on the blog. They make my day.) Also, all of the students have documented their work today, so please enjoy their photos. (Some are mine, but most belong to them.)

Today's weather was definitely not-so-gorgeous. (It was absolutely wonderful yesterday.) It was cloudy, colder, and windy, and then we got some rain. Hopefully this is all the rain for the week. (Please pray for no rain. It makes working outside not so fun, and some of the work can't be done when it rains.)

Just a little thought for today: Some of us are able to listen to music (thanks, iPhones) as we work. Hannah and I did a lot of talking and a lot of singing/listening today. As we chipped away at stubborn wallpaper, the lyrics from one of the songs and a familiar hymn made my heart sing:

"Hallelujah, He he has found me! / The One my soul so long has craved / Jesus satisfies all my longings / Through His blood I now am saved." 
- Red Mountain Church's "Satisfied" (words by Clara T. Williams in 1875, music by Karl Digerness)

"Watching and waiting, looking above / Filled with His goodness / Lost in His love / This is my story, this is my song / Praising my Savior all the day long / This is my story, this is my song / Praising my Savior all the day long."
- "Blessed Assurance" (words by Fanny Crosby in 1873)

Here's what we were up to today!

Brett, Matt, and Phillip: The guys cut down limbs and brush in the field. After lunch, they helped load up truck fulls of expired foods, including cases of soda. They worked with some of our girls pouring out the soda - sounds silly, but it needed to be done. Palmer Home legally can't serve expired food or beverages. (We recycled over 700 soda cans. KSU RUF is green - as evidenced by the Snapchat photo below. Snapchat is an iPhone app that we've been using all week to show each other what we're doing ... and send funny pictures to each other.)

Brett and Phillip pushing brush out of the truck. This was actually yesterday, but it's such a nice shot 
Brett preparing for battle ... against the limbs and brush 
Lexi, Sarah, & Rebekah being green
Check out this panoramic photo of expired Diet Pepsi cans. The crew did this many, many times today. We'll try to post a really cool video of it tomorrow.

Lexi, Rebekah, and Sarah: These ladies cleaned out a pantry in one of the houses (where the Florida RUF girls are staying this week), then worked on moving school supplies and crafting supplies from several locations into the tutoring center. They organized the supplies and cleaned up the area. They also helped sort other items to send to the thrift store. They also joined in with our guys in pouring out sodas, throwing trash away, and recycling. Note the difference in Kayla (who didn't pour out 100+ Orange Crushes) and Rebekah's hand colors (see the photo below).

Kayla (on the left) and Rebekah (right). Don't worry - it's just Orange Crush! 
Emptying the truck bed into the dumpster

Beautiful ladies - Lexi, Rebekah, and Sarah

Anna, Ansley, Aubri, Kayla, and Nicole: These ladies finished organizing the toy room and it looks awesome. They sorted a bajillion things (no exaggeration), including clothes, more toys, school supplies, and Valentines (80 boxes, to be exact). They folded and sorted new clothes and laid them out in the dining hall for the house moms to come look and take what they need for their kids.  They took the excess toys and clothing to an organization called Operation Ukraine, and unloaded the items for them. (They also got a tour of the place and said it's pretty neat!)

Panoramic of a two-day project: organized toy room!
Carting a load to the warehouse
Cute stuffed animals (and cute ladies!) in the toy room

Hannah and Aubra: Whew man. We stripped wallpaper in a bathroom in the administration building. This was Hannah's second day on it and my first day. (I took Kayla's spot.) To quote Ms. Helen (who leads and organizes our group projects), "This job is a booger." No kidding. We had a great time with good conversation. I'm fairly sure we entertained the office staff as we belted out some Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Red Mountain Church, Dave Barnes ... yeah, it was a good, long day of wallpaper stripping. We'll finish it tomorrow (bound and determined to do it).

Hannah is a PRO at removing wallpaper. She put me to shame. 
After coming back to our housing, most of us crashed for a nap in the den. Thanks to Matt for taking this photo.

Nap time: Anna, Aubri, Kayla, Aubra, Nicole, and Ansley

Tonight, we got to hang out at dinner with the kids and families. The Kennesaw crew got to chill in the gym with the elementary school aged kids ... well, "chill" is definitely the wrong word. We did a lot of running and playing. Florida RUF organized a giant game of rock, paper, scissors - I'd never played it this way before, so that was definitely entertaining!

After the kids went back to their houses, we played Dr. Psychiatrist with our Florida RUF friends. Some of them are downstairs (the Florida boys sleep below our upstairs apartment in the gym building; their girls are next door in a cottage) playing Mafia, and others are out getting froyo. As I write this post, I'm enjoying the company of Anna, Ansley, Aubri, Hannah, and Matt. All of us are looking forward to an earlier bedtime tonight - we have worked HARD today.

Playing Psychiatrist. Our Rebekah was one of the three psychiatrists in the middle 

Thank you for your prayers and support. We are so grateful for y'all and are thankful for your encouraging messages and texts. Good night from Columbus!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Palmer Home: Monday

I'm going to attempt to post an update every day while we're on our spring break service trip. (Key word: "attempt.") I didn't realize we were going to have wifi here, so this is a spontaneous decision. Feel free to share the link!

This week, thirteen of us from Kennesaw RUF are serving at Palmer Children's Home Columbus, Mississippi. Florida's RUF is also here with us (they just slightly outnumber us ... they've got 40!), so it's been fun to get to know them. (They're currently playing the blow dart game ... if you're familiar with that, you can imagine how "fun" it's been to randomly hear your name called out, look up, and then have to keel over wherever you are. They all seem to know my name, and we've barely been here 24 hours. But I digress.)

We arrived yesterday and were greeted and briefed by the Andersons. They used to be house parents here at Palmer Home, and now they oversee groups (like us) who travel here. You can find out everything about Palmer Home here, but here's their mission statement (straight from their website):

"The mission of Palmer Home for Children is to reflect the hope and love of Christ by providing a stable, long-term Christ-centered home for children who lack an adequate family structure. To that end Palmer Home, as it has since 1895, remains committed to privately-funded, non-government child care which keeps siblings together, models evangelical Christian values, mends emotional scars, restores self-esteem, and provides for each child the full opportunity to reach his or her God-given potential."

Palmer Home is taking great care of us. When we unpacked last night, we found that our on campus apartment had snacks (Pop Tarts, Capri Suns, candy, popcorn, coffee ... major college essentials), and we all have beds! (Having been on a bunch of mission trips with lots of different accommodations, this was a welcome surprise. We've all agreed that this is definitely a "nice" missions trip.) We made a quick Walmart run last night (hey Mom and Jen, I bought us healthy stuff!) ... and the photo below is just a typical "welcome to Mississippi" thing. Go Duck Dynasty.

Aubri, Anna, and Hannah modeling

This morning, we got up before 8 (woohoo for college kids who are willing to give up most of the break and get up "early") and ate a hearty breakfast. We were then split up into work groups. I'm not 100 percent sure everything that Florida did (painting shutters, digging a massive ditch, and lots of other things), but here's what our crew did:

Brett, Matt, and Phillip: Our fearless guys were in heaven today. They got to drive an old Chevy truck (every guy's dream, right!?), used machetes and other sharp instruments, and were outside all day. They cleared a large area of brush and ivy behind the baseball field. I don't have photos of them in action, but they worked super hard (and they'll be back there tomorrow to do it again!).

Old truck. What more could you want?

Hannah and Kayla: These two sweet ladies eagerly volunteered to strip wallpaper from a bathroom in the administration building. (Not sure they knew what they were getting into, but they did it!) They came back sticky from wall glue and with pieces of wallpaper all over them - and they're headed back tomorrow to keep working.

Cheerfully scraping wallpaper

Lexi, Rebekah, and Sarah: These cool ladies moved supplies (all kinds - school supplies, crafts, toiletries, etc.) from one room into a large closet/room area. They did some major organizing and cleaning, and they kept up with people who brought in more supplies. I think they're continuing tomorrow with more school supplies in the tutoring center.

Rebekah's crew found a pogo stick!

Anna, Ansley,  Aubri, Nicole, and me: I had a blast with these fun ladies all afternoon. We got to sort and move toys, games, clothes, supplies, etc. from one room in the administration building. We decided which toys were going to the toy room at Palmer Home (it's where the house parents can pick out gifts for their kids, as well as gifts for when their kids get invited to birthday parties) and which items needed to be sent to the Palmer Home thrift store. The thrift store's proceeds help keep Palmer Home running. (Side note: We had one in Starkville when I was in undergrad. Hands down, it's one of my favorite thrift stores.)

Don't worry - these were already used, so they went to the thrift store 
Loaded up the bus with thrift store toys!

Later this afternoon, we played with the sweet and energetic kiddos. I made rock piles, knotted clover necklaces, and chased twin 3-year olds. We got to eat dinner with the families, which was really neat. (We can't post photos of the kids, but trust me - they're cute.)

After dinner, the group humored me and we drove to Starkville ... home of my wonderful alma mater, Mississippi State University! I broke my 40-day fast (just once!) and ate Bop's ice cream. Totally worth it. Loved being able to share one of my favorite college places with our crew. After ice cream, we headed to State's campus and I told them all about it ... way more than they ever wanted to know. (Side note: There's still SO MUCH construction on campus!) They were awesome and I think enjoyed seeing all the green space. We definitely walked off our ice cream and wore ourselves out - we're all going to sleep GREAT tonight.

The guys enjoying concretes from Bop's.

As I finish writing this post, our crew is currently bonding with the Florida crew. They're playing Hearts, and I'm about to get to bed. (My tired body is still on Eastern time ... or I'm just old. Probably a combination of both.) Thanks for your prayers, encouraging texts, and Facebook likes on our photos ... keep it up!

The Kennesaw/Florida crew bonding in our kitchen