Monday, 30 May 2011

Happy Memorial Day

Having a chance to say thank you to our troops comes on a daily basis for someone like me. Taking time to smile and wish them a happy day can change the life of a sole soldier. "Welcome Home" are sweet words that it is a privilege to utter. Today, I think of the people who stood and were recognized in church services across the country for their service.  I think of the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice to give us our freedoms. I think of the families who bare the heavy burden to say their father or mother, husband or wife, son or daughter, brother or sister, grandfather or grandmother gave it all for our nation. I think of the days they must still choke back tears, the moments that loved one does not have the chance to witness, the lives that were seemingly taken much too soon.

Driving down Marine Drive on Saturday we passed Asan Beach (see previous post on the details of this sacred piece of land). To our surprise the field was saturated with American flags and Guam flags. It was breath taking. The sacrifice that played out on that land is what Memorial Day is all about.

One plaque in the park reads, "This memorial is a testament... they knew at last their sacrifices have not gone unnoticed... and will never be forgotten."
                     -Lieutenant Governor of Guam

President Harry S Truman said, "Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices".

So I ask, what did you do for Memorial Day? Did you seek out an old friend and say thank you? Did you sit and listen to stories about your grandfathers days in the service? Did you stop and shake the hand of the vet you just walked past? Take a moment. Say "thank you". I promise it will change their life.

We enjoyed a quiet day, just the two of us. Laughed at dinner with great friends. And were reminded that military life is always full of wonderful people, amazing adventures and never ending surprises.

Happy Memorial Day from our rock in the middle of the Pacific.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Agat Mango Festival

A holiday weekend calls for a new adventure. We have attempted to join in on several festivals since we've been here. However, if you recall, the banana festival was a slight let down. Then we drove about as far away from our house as possible here on the island to visit the Coconut festival. We found the park... but no festival. Appears I (Em) read a magazine that had a misprint on the date. So at attempt 3 we ventured out to the Mango Festival. 

Best news is we found it. Second best news is it was more of what we expected. Next best news is we had a great time. 


The park was on the coast over looking a point on the backside of Navy. Having the water as the back drop of the festival is a wonderful touch. Too bad Main Street in Hendersonville doesn't follow the Pacific Ocean. What a wonderful location for the Apple Festival! 

Vendors were demonstrating how to pickle mangoes, make mango smoothies, fry mango 'empanadas' (for lack of a better word), selling mango jam, explaining the differences in the varieties of mangoes, and proudly displaying their most beautiful, largest, and most bizarre mangoes grown. 

Most Beautiful Mango

Most Bizarre Mango (note the post-it. no ribbon, just a post-it)

Largest Mango (it is the biggest mango I've ever seen)

Along with all the mango treasures the festival was alive with performances from local artists and dancers. The air was full of the aroma of funnel cakes, cotton candy, traditional bbq, and Thai food.  Relief was found from the heat with fresh squeezed fruit juices and sno-cones. I think I could get a job. Would I be considered a 'carny'? Cause that would be awesome.

Ryan is very excited about his home made mango jam. The treasures we find can make a good day wonderful.

Before we left we purchased a few plants in attempt to begin planting a little garden. The vendors assured us the ones we selected will thrive in lots of sun and with little care. Hopefully that means we can actually keep them alive. Guess we will see. 

Have a wonderful holiday weekend. Hope yours is as adventurous as ours on our rock in the middle of the Pacific. 

Monday, 23 May 2011

The grand tour just for YOU!

As promised, your own personal tour of our home. Don't you feel special?
This is the view from the street. Please note the two car garage. We are truly moving up in the world; minus the one car family thing. Guess a one car garage would have worked just fine. As Ryan says, "plenty of storage! Guess we need some toys to fill the space".

As you walk in the front door to the left you see the dining room and kitchen. The sliding glass door on the right side of the picture opens up to a patio. We are on the hunt for some super cute furniture. Can't wait to have some other couples over for a cook out.

I have never seen a kitchen with so much storage. We have ample counter space. Perfect for preparing yummy summer food year round!

On the left side of the picture is a floor to ceiling pantry that is about 7 feet wide. We've decided to set aside an entire pantry for our typhoon survival kit. Drinking water, canned goods, tuna, ramen noodles.... you know everything that a college kid lives off of.

To the left of the entry way is our living room. It is an odd long shape room. We decided to use our humongous brown couch to divide it into a sitting area and a living room.

Here you see our 'sitting area'. So formal. I love to sit with the bay window open and enjoy my morning coffee and a good book. If you ever Skye with me it's also where I usually choose to sit.

The ceilings are slightly vaulted and have 2 fans which create a wonderful breeze in the evenings.

Most people will ask what the white thing is on the wall... it's a slit A/C unit. We have 3 in our house so we can cool the room we are using instead of trying to cool the entire house with the central A/C. Needless to say that can get incredibly expensive. No need for heat here.

It is certainly beginning to look like home.

Whenever you decide to come visit paradise this will be your room. It has a private bath just to the left side of the bed. We still need to hang some curtains. It's great for your mainland get away!

Continuing down the hall, we have a second bath. Just in case there is a big group who decide to come visit....

We are using one bedroom as an office of sorts. It has proven to be a great place to sit and search for  a job. Hopefully we'll be able to find a book shelf. I ran out of space.

There is also plenty of room to put an air mattress or 2 if needed for all my friends with kids who are coming to visit.

The master bedroom is at the back of the house. We have a small patio out the sliding glass door. You may notice the glass doors are very dark. We have the typhoon shutters pulled to help with energy use and to block out the morning sun.

Another note of us moving up in the world is the huge walk in closet as seen below. Our bath has a tub and stand up shower with his and her sinks. It's the small things in life!

The final bedroom has become our toy box were we are keeping snorkel gear, bikes, winter clothes, Christmas decorations and all of Ryan's military gear. I'm not really sure how we had all this in our little apartment in Fayetteville.

That's our home. The last big task is to plant our little garden/flower bed. I have big dreams. A coconut tree, pepper plant. Maybe some mangoes or fresh herbs. Oh wouldn't it be great to have fresh banana's on your cereal... decisions... decisions...

Plain and simple, I just don't know where to start. Any suggestions for turning my brown thumb green are greatly appreciated.

Hope you enjoyed your tour. Feel free to visit anytime. Our neighborhood is full of kids and a great place to take a walk and enjoy the outdoors. 

See you soon our rock in the middle of the pacific...

Sunday, 15 May 2011

laugh with us...

We all know Ryan and I are having a wonderful time here in Guam. Even though it is beautiful paradise living occasionally it has, well... dirty moments. We are often asked what Ryan does at work... well may this picture confirm that he really does work.

Let me see if I can get this all straight. The squadron he is with, 554 REDHORSE, have recently moved to Guam from Korea. Due to their relocation they are actually building their compound from the ground up. Well, this past week they finished clearing the jungle in preparation to start building. What do you do with all the cleared brush? Burn it. He came home everyday last week covered head to toe in dirt and soot. Our truck smells like a bond fire and the house still has the lingering smell of a burning fireplace.

In preparation for the next 3 years we decided to purchase 'good' snorkel and scuba gear. Our search for a good deal lead us down to the Navy base's dive shop. With the help of a very patient employee, we each selected our mask, snorkel, boots, and fins. We are ready to hit the open water.

Well, maybe we should just snorkel for now. But dive lessons and certification are in the near future! Marianas Trench here we come....

maybe not the actual trench, but the view driving to the beach on base. Pretty huh?
Coming up: your personal tour of our humble abode... but until then signing off from our rock in the middle of the pacific.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Will you celebrate your Mom on Sunday?

As Mother’s Day approaches there is a different feeling and emotion in here in Guam. We won’t be there to celebrate with our moms. We won’t be there with our friends to celebrate the great moms they have become. We won’t even be there to celebrate with the women who have been like moms to us.  But that doesn’t keep me from reflecting on the moms and the children whom I have had the experience of sharing life with.

Many of you know just how Ryan and I grew up.  We both come from homes with loving parents, plenty of food, encouraging atmospheres, clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet, and siblings to share after school adventures with. Christmas celebrated Christ’s birth with us receiving presents, birthdays were stocked with gifts and a cake glowing with candles, Easter complete with dyed eggs, chocolate bunnies, and all the Peeps you can eat. Winter promised snow days spent sledding with cousins with the only break for a hot dog and lays potato chips. Summers were packed full of hours spent at the pool, weeks at camps, and family vacations. Fall came with new backpacks and the perfect trapper keeper and Friday nights spent at Pizza Hut and the local football games.  Weeknights included being shuttled to dance class or football practice, Patch the Pirate or AWANNA at Wednesday night church, tutoring or a variety of other event.  Weekends promised time with friends, church activities, adventures with grandparents and memories to last a lifetime.

We could not have asked for better childhoods. It is the ideal way to grow up. As many of you know, there are millions of children who do not have moms. They do not have parents. If they do have parents, I can promise, they are not parents like Ryan and I have. As Mother’s Day is just around the corner I sit and think of those I have loved on, prayed for, and cried with. As you celebrate your mom or are celebrated as a mom, please say an extra prayer for those who have no one or no reason to celebrate.

We all know I am not a mom (and no there is no thought of that coming any time soon, sorry moms) but what I have shared with a few of these children makes it feel like they are my own. They are children who have impacted my life, I see their faces when I close my eyes, I have carried them across streams, picked them up with they have fallen, felt that knot in my stomach as they leave from camp, been thrilled beyond words to see them open Christmas presents, rejoiced in sharing ice cream on the front porch, cleaned their injuries, and have been totally devastated as they fall into the temptations of the world. May I share just a few of these children with you? Can I give you a couple of faces to think about as you celebrate your mom?

Alex is a little boy who was in my second group of children while working for Livada Orphan Care (LOC) in Romania. Alex just turned 3 when I had him at camp. He was precious. His smile is contagious, his blue eyes intoxicating. He was abandoned by his parents and was living in a group home with 10 other little boys. He was the first child I fell in love with. I remember getting back to the city to email my mom and asking (in all seriousness) “if I stick him in my suitcase, will you help me raise him?” I had the chance to chase him around the playground, clean his face and hands after meals, tell him bedtime stories, and have him fall asleep in my arms. Childhood moments his mom will never experience.

Grant and I have a wonderful relationship. We have never questioned if we are actually related, or if there is another one of us out there somewhere. But that same week of camp, another one of my little guys, Ionuts (4 years old), was reunited by Bruce Thomas (founder of LOC) with his 9 year old sister, Ana Maria, after 3 years. Ionuts is the youngest of 7 children who were taken from their parents after the father had abused them. The reunion was breath taking.  They spent every waking moment for the next 3 days together. Since then I have wondered why their mom didn’t protect them. Why she didn’t see the value of the sibling relationship and the preciousness of her children.

Catalina is a beautiful 10 year old little girl whom I fell in love with the first time I met her. She quickly became my favorite the first week I was in Romania. All summer I spent sharing the love of God with her. It was week 8 when I heard her come running out of the building screaming my name. She ran across the field, jumped in my arms and started screaming with joy at me in Romanian. A translator came over to tell me, as she continued to scream, “I’m going to Heaven, I am going to Heaven. Jesus is my heart”.  I hugged her as tight as I could and she asked “are you really my sister now?” Yes, Catalina, I am your sister. You now have a Father, and a family. As heart breaking as it is to share, Catalina has since chosen to leave the care of Livada and (last I heard) is living with her boyfriend. My eyes are full of tears as I write this, I couldn’t speak right now if I had too. My heart breaks for this little life that doesn’t realize the value of her self and has walked off the path God has planned for her.

Neosporin, and place your favorite band-aid over it? Did she prepare you to share the good news through all the pain and challenges that have made you the person you are today?

As you celebrate your mom I ask, how can you change the life of just one child? If I have impacted the lives of the above mentioned children by just a fraction of how they have impacted me it as worth all the sacrifice. Quoting C. Thomas Davis in Fields of the Fatherless “Proverbs promises ‘he who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what He is given’ (19:17).  A lifelong blessing will attach itself to your life when you follow the instructions of the Lord and join Him at work in His favorite fields.”

Mom, thank you for keeping me. Thank you for providing a safe place to sit with my brother in front of the picture window. Thank you for loving me even when it was tough for both of us. Thank you for cleaning my wounds and sending me off to change the world. I would not be the woman I am today without your unconditional love.

Mom (Leslie Cassell), I thank you for loving me and taking care of me through my younger years.  I am missing another Mothers Day, but I am proud to brag about the mom you are.  Thank you for the godly ways you live and have taught me to live. You are the best mom I ever had!  Happy Mothers Day.

To all the women who have been like mothers to Ryan and I we say thank you. May your day be blessed for investing in our lives and growing us into the people we are today. Know we are celebrating you from our rock in the middle of the pacific.