Thursday, January 31, 2019


Flying is a big decision when you leave your children at home. I know it's supposedly "safer" than driving, but it doesn't feel safer! It was hard to say good bye. But once I was in the air I remembered how empowering it is to fly. You can go anywhere and see anything! And then and there I decided that my children have to fly.

 We came home to a couple inches of snow and 4 children who were very happy to see us. They had really good times with both sets of their grandparents. Aliza told me that she realized how blessed she was to have 2 wonderful grandmas, a grandad and a grandpa and so many aunts and uncles. And that realization made it worth saying good bye for a couple days and pushing the kids out of their comfort zones.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Taking It All In

Are you wondering if the trip blogs will ever end? After this one--one more!

After we left the plantation we had to shift our plans since it was raining. So we drove. I have no idea where we drove, but we stopped for lunch at a place that required the men to go in to make sure it was reasonably acceptable. It was. And then we kept driving and ended up at a state park.

I didn't have any ink with me, but we found a letterbox anyway.
I loved this walk. It was a well kept trail. The Spanish mass was pretty.
We laughed a lot along the way. Actually we laughed a lot every day.
Jeremy and I held hands while we walked. It's the little things...

 It was sunset and the reflection off the water was perfect. This was at the end of the alligator lookout boardwalk. We didn't see any alligators.

We ended up by the lake and watched the end of the sunset at the end of the pier.
The guys took lots of neat pictures.
We took the 25 mile causeway across the lake back into New Orleans.

We missed walking around the Garden District so we took a night driving tour of the big houses in the Garden District. This became very entertaining because some houses were lit up on the outside and others had lights on inside so that we could see in.

Our supper restaurant had a map of the city on one wall. We were all in rare form and laughed until we cried while Dan used a straw as a pointer and retraced where we had been.
Plantation tour, swamps, bayous,  25 mile bridge (causeway), big houses, oysters and crabcakes---it was a memorable day.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


This experience was profound, moving and emotional. I'm finding it difficult to put into words. Whitney's Plantation offers visitors a guided tour from the perspective of the slaves. Our tour guide had brown skin which added another dimension to the tour. He was a very good communicator even if I wish I would have counted how many times he said y'all. 

He told us so much but one thing I remember is how he pointed out that slavery has been around as long as war. It doesn't have do with color of skin, but with power, economics and greed. It happened that people with Africa could withstand malaria and smallpox and had the skill set to work in fields the heat and humidity of the south.
There were memorials for slaves from Africa, for slaves traded domestically and for children. Estimated thousands of names are unknown and missing.
We toured slave housing, discussed how sugar cane is grown and processed into sugar, saw holding cells used for slave trade, and saw the kitchen. Pictures were allowed and even encouraged, but it didn't seem right. There are pictures on the website I linked to at the beginning of the post.

Slaves this far south in Louisiana could not escape. Sure, they tried daily. The Mississippi River was on one side and there was no escaping "up the river". Just past the fields are swamps. The life expectancy on this plantation was 10 years from arrival. It didn't matter  how old you were when you arrived. The house cooked for the slaves that wasn't a courtesy--that just made sure the women worked more hours in the field. A slave could be worth as much as $20-$30,000 in modern currency.

The slaves for this plantation lived 3/4 of a mile down the road and the 1/4 of a mile off the road so most never saw the owner's mansion. The kitchen staff were often incentivized with the promise of freedom upon the owner's death as the cook had a lot of power. She could poison anyone that ate her food.
Plantation homes were built by Africans who introduced "African air conditioning". The house faces the water with 2 rows of trees between the house and water. All of the door and windows line up so that the breeze off the water blows through the house.

Past the property and over the ridge is the Mississippi River.
The lady of this house had the wood painted to look like marble. This painting was original.

If I get started talking in person I'll remember all kinds of other details and tidbits of information that may or may not interest you!

If you go to New Orleans, Whitney Plantation should be on the top of your list of things to see. I would go again. I would take my children.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Exploring the City

 After our work was finished, we picked up lunch to take back to our air bnb so that we could get changed and ready to spend the rest of the day in New Orleans. It was a beautiful day! We rode the cable car into the city and walked to the French Quarter. There were lots of art gallery stores and stores that sold chandeliers. The distinctive feature of the architecture in the French Quarter are the iron railings.

 This street band was actually really good. We listened for a few minutes and watched other interesting people in the crowd. There was no shortage of interesting people to watch!
 While Laurie held our place in line at Preservation Hall, Dan took Jeremy and I to see St. Louis Cathedral. As we were walking away from Laurie and Preservation Hall, a guy walking past Dan said, "Nice shoes, big guy!" Totally random but made us laugh.

The street in front of the Cathedral is filled with palm readers and fortune tellers and artists of various kinds. Walking between the church and the vendors the contrast was so stark.

We walked around the block to a lookout point. The church on one side and the Mississippi River on the other.
 While we were there looking at the church a guy approached Dan saying, "I bet I can tell you where you got those shoes." Dan let him guess... He said, "On the bottom of your feet." The guy kept talking and next thing we knew he had squirted some shoe cleaner on Dan's tennis shoes and was shining them. Mesh top tennis shoes aren't exactly meant for liquid shoe cleaner, but the guy was tenacious. lol. He shined those shoes. I was standing there laughing but knowing this guy was going to expect some money. Dan handed him a dollar--which didn't go over well. The guy wanted $10! lol. At which point I remembered Dan lived in Kenya and knows how to barter. Dan gave him a $5 and the guy asked for the $1 for a tip! Dan did not give him the dollar. We had a good laugh and started wondering how in the world Dan's shoes attracted the attention of two people in less than an hour.
 It was time to head back to Preservation Hall for the 5:00 show. The gray green building in the picture below is Preservation Hall--home of New Orleans jazz music.
 The inside is as unassuming as the outside. It's a very small, very informal room with very limited seating. We sat on cushions on the floor. There was one row of people on cushions in front of us and the musicians were within arm's length from them.
 There was trumpet, trombone, clarinet, bass, drums and piano. All of the musicians in the group we saw were older. 4 were black and 2 were white. All had a long resume of musical accomplishments. We enjoyed every minute of the show; however, we were also glad the show was only 45 minutes as we were sitting cross legged on the floor with no wiggle room! The music was amazing, authentic, and informal.
 And since we were half a block from Bourbon St. I'll throw my thoughts on the city in here. We did not walk on Bourbon St. Just seeing down it was enough. From where we were the street was blocked off so that cars could not enter and the revelry didn't spill too easily into other streets. Laurie saw some colorful things that we missed while she was waiting. We watched parents push strollers with young children into Bourbon St and wondered what they were thinking. In conversation over supper, we talked about sex trafficking and wondered how many victims are on that street. We talked about the sense of hopelessness that we felt pervaded the city.

I had seafood gumbo for supper and then we set off for the highly acclaimed Cafe du Monde for beignets and coffee. (I stole this picture off of instagram since I didn't take one!) It's an outside cafe. All they serve are beignets, coffee, and hot chocolate. The floor is covered with powered sugar! Jeremy said they taste like a funnel cake. Laurie and I think they are a lot like a mandazi that they make in Kenya. Either way they were yummy!
 We took the cable car home. It was pretty empty, but there was one guy who was more than willing to talk smack with Dan about the Eagles vs. Saints playoff game that was just days away. Basically the guy was the only one talking. Dan didn't say anything--only admitted he was an Eagles fan. We all felt a little better when another local admitted to being an Eagles fan because he loved Randall Cunningham when he was a kid before the Saints were in New Orleans. It was local flavor and insight into the racial culture. It was fascinating and entertaining to observe.

I think all 4 of us fell asleep quickly in our very squeaky beds that night!

Friday, January 18, 2019

School Supplies for Rosslyn Academy

A little history before the story--A long time ago, back in the late 1990's (lol) I went to Kenya for a 4 month mission trip. During that time, my Aunt and Uncle and their family also lived in Kenya where they worked at Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi. While I was there, I visited them in their home and walked around the school campus. After returning to that States, Dan continues to work for Rosslyn Academy.  One large aspect of his job is ordering school supplies for Rosslyn Academy.

Fast forward 20 years...Dan invited Jeremy and I to go to New Orleans with him and Laurie to inventory the shipment of school supplies going to Rosslyn Academy for the '19-'20 school year. Once teachers in Kenya submit their materials list to the administration and it is approved, Dan orders all of the supplies and has them shipped to Missionary Expediters on Tchoupitoulas St. in New Orleans. I included the name of the street because--how would you like to type or spell Tchoupitoulas hundreds of times!? (We won't talk about Jeremy's attempts to pronounce--or mispronounce it!)

This is the Missionary Expediters warehouse.
Dan orders $150K-$200K of school supplies every year. This is his 17th or 18th year and once or twice a year he comes to this warehouse--usually with some helpful reinforcements--to make sure all of the things he ordered have arrived and are accounted for.

When a delivery is made, the warehouse stacks it on a pallet for the Rosslyn Academy account. Our first job was to sort the boxes by category. Books were separated out as they are not taxed at customs in Kenya. We also had piles for Science, Art, PE, classroom supplies, IT, and PTF.

Dan has this process perfected. Each of us had a paper with every order number and the category it belonged in. The order number was part of the shipping address on every box. So we grabbed a box, matched the order numbers and put it in the correct category pile.
Next, every category was lined up in numerical order by shipping number. Some orders might only be one box, others had multiple boxes. Once the line up was made, each order was verified against the master list (ensuring that all orders arrived), each individual box received a sticker with a piece number and the piece numbers were recorded beside the order numbers on the master list. If there was a discrepancy, Dan would look up the order in his 2 inch binder of invoices, open the box and figure out where it belonged. Very few boxes had to be opened!  This process ensured that 1. all the orders and boxes arrived in New Orleans  2. aides in the customs process 3. lets Rosslyn know if any boxes are missing upon arrival 4. if a teacher doesn't receive what they ordered Dan can tell them exactly what box it should have arrived in. 
The picture below is the line up of boxes for the IT department. Jeremy thought it would be pretty fun to be on the receiving end of this shipment.
As the boxes were labeled with piece stickers, they were stacked on pallets by category. The warehouse worker, who has lived in New Orleans all his life and has the best accent, took the pallet to the machine that wraps everything in plastic shrink wrap.
A wrapped and finished pallet.
At the end of our day and a half of work, I counted 22 pallets and we had labeled 548 boxes!
The liaison at Missionary Expediters who handles the Rosslyn account, told us that it takes in the neighborhood of 50 permissions and permits just to the crate out of the port in New Orleans. The expected ship date was Jan 16. Once it leaves the port in New Orleans, the cargo ship will make a stop somewhere (that I can't remember!) and then will be loaded on another ship to Mombasa, Kenya. It is expected to arrive in Kenya in April. Once in Kenya, the shipment will have to be cleared by customs which is quite a process with an unclear timeline. Rosslyn will have to pay 15% in taxes. And then the crate will be transported to Nairobi, which I think someone said happens by rail. 

I loved learning new things about international shipping. I enjoyed the process and completing a job. It was also pretty neat for me to have a concept of where the boxes were going. It added significance to the work we did.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Little Stories

Isaiah has said couple things this recently that I have to remember:

Sometimes Isaiah sits with Aliza while she does school. She is very patient with all of his interruptions. She was doing math and there was the letter E on the screen. Aliza said, "Hey Buddy, do you know what letter this is?" Isaiah said, "Ummm Inventory?" Aliza knew right away that he was in fact recognizing the letter E, but in a totally different context. He uses the E key on the computer keyboard to access his inventory in Minecraft.


I made chocolate chip cookies yesterday. Isaiah came running out of the bathroom saying, "Mom, Mom! I have cavities! Lots of cavities!" He was the least bit distressed, but wanted me to come see his teeth. He had cookie remnants stuck in his teeth. I assured him he could brush those cavities away with a toothbrush. Even at bedtime he was still checking for cavities.


I'm not quite sure where the kids picked up this song, but it's catchy and they go around singing parts of it. The first couple lines are "Once I was seven years old my momma told me Go make yourself some friends or you'll be lonely"
Last night a couple of the children got some frozen strawberries out of the freezer for a snack. There was drama and Isaiah wanted some and asked me to go him some. I told him that he could go downstairs and get himself some strawberries. He didn't fuss, but as he walked down the steps he was singing..."Once I was 7 years old my mama told me Go downstairs and get your own strawberries." He said every word clearly and the rhythm worked. I was laughing.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Joy Dare::December

5989. Friends who like to use their new chainsaw
5990. First day of Advent
5991. Tree decorated--and redecorated
5992. Had replacement lights
5993. Fresh air
5994. Boys sitting on stumps talking
5995. Working together to get a job done
5996. Notes that make me laugh (from Anna)
5997. Enough energy for today
5998. Science experiments that work
5999. School in the car during choir practice for the win
6000. Aliza telling me all about Anne of Green Gables
6001. Singing bedtime songs with Isaiah [Current singing list: Jesus Loves Me, Jesus Loves the Little Children, B-I-B-L-E, This Little Light of Mine, Away in the Manger]
6002. Aliza and Anna being welcoming to a visitor
6003. Thinking about the idea of hope this week
6004. Reading by the light of the Christmas tree
6005. Leading singing from a hymnal
6006. Great attitudes during a long rehearsal
6007. Boots
6008. Winter choir concert
6009. Anna's joy, Aliza's smile
6010. Great Grandad getting to be at the choir concert
6011. Getting some brush burned
6012. A little bit of snow
6013. Sunday goal: a nap
6014. Christmas shopping with Anna
6015. Isaiah's winter hat
6016. Home all day
6017. Feeling caught up
6018. All the activities ending for Christmas break
6019. So much fun making an Advent tree
6020. Josiah thinking
6021. Friend afternoon
6022. Comfort food--breakfast for supper
6023. Cook Out milkshakes
6024. Rough night but enough strength for the day
6025. Science experiments that mostly work
6026. Rainy morning to address Christmas cards
6027. Hot chocolate with friends
6028. Silence after bedtime
6029. "Owlegories" show
6030. "Mom, take our picture!" moments
6031. Isaiah calls "This Little Light of Mine", "Poke the Light Out" and he sings along
6032. Christmas excitement is building!
6033. Officially Christmas break
6034. The baking begins
6035. Saying "yes" a lot today
6036. Cinnamon Fluff for Grandad
6037. Bible study craft night
6038. Community dinner
6039. A really relaxed day
6040. Some quiet time this morning
6041. Independent and resourceful
6042. Warm enough to be outside
6043. Cookies with neighbors
6044. Cardboard box spaceships
6045. Doing some scrapbooking
6046. Jeremy excited
6047. Baking done
6048. 72 hours of Christmas starts tonight
6049. The biggest, brightest mood tonight
6050. My family all together
6051. All of my siblings favorite things
6052. Christmas morning feels
6053. Everything I cooked turned out well
6054. Dad and Grandad with us for supper
6055. Safely in WV
6056. Chick Fil A lunch
6057. Flower seeds makes me ready to dream
6058. Relaxing
6059. Doing a project with the girls
6060. Josiah loved being with his Dad and Joel
6061. It's always good to be home again
6062. Getting some fresh air
6063. Cleaning
6064. Putting away the Christmas tree makes me feel like I have a bigger house
6065. Shrimp and pizza
6066. All the way to midnight...