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Friday, April 29, 2016

Moving Day

Whew! That was WORK!!!!
We arrived in Kerrville at 11 p.m. It's now almost 1 a.m. and I'm too keyed up to sleep, so I thought I'd write a blog post. 

Even though it was a lot of work, we also had a lot of fun while we were doing it, and our prayers were answered for the safety of everyone involved. We started at 6 a.m. and finally drove out of the driveway at 6 p.m. During those 12 hours I was too busy to take many photos, but I have a few for you.

Here's how I started my day: 

Too bad my Fitbit isn't the model that records flights of steps...I might have set a record today!

Our friend Carlos arrived at 10 a.m. with his helper Donald, after driving 5 hours from Kerrville. Later 2 more helpers came from Corpus Christi to pitch in. At least this time gravity was working in their favor. It's a lot easier taking things down all those stairs than it was when they brought it all in last year!!

 Careful with that Clavinova!!!

I thought I worked hard! These guys REALLY labored! Fortunately it wasn't too hot (low 80's) but the humidity was near 100%. We were all drenched all day!!

Here's the metamorphosis of our guest room/art studio/ music room over the past year:

When we rented the place it looked like this:

After we moved in and set up, it changed to this:

Just this morning it looked like this:

And tonight it looks like this:

Tomorrow it'll be completely different, because our new friends Ernie and Dixie will be moving in. Hope they enjoy the place as much as we did! I can't wait to return to Rockport and stop by to see how the house looks with all their things in it!

The worst part of the move is over, but there's still plenty to do. We haven't unloaded the moving van yet! Carlos has things to do tomorrow (I guess it's really today, since it's after 1 a.m.!), so we have to wait till Sunday to unload and move everything into the house. Actually, that's just fine with us. That'll give us a lighter day between the two hard-working ones. We can just unload my car and Curt's truck tomorrow, and then rest a bit, since Sunday won't be much of a day of rest this week. There's always next week for that!

Ok, I think I'm sleepy enough now. Goodnight from Kerrville.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Saying Good-Bye

IWe've been doing the bittersweet ritual of "last time" events before the move. Last Wednesday I went to my last choir rehearsal. It was a great time, because we also celebrated the 90th birthday of Myrtle, one of our choir members.

Here's Ouida Richardson, our terrific choir leader. I've enjoyed her leadership and instruction so much over the past year and a half!

And Linda Hamilton, our fabulous accompanist, who has also recently joined my group of Stampin'Up demonstrators:

And, of course, my fellow choir members, working hard on a song for Sunday's service:
That's Myrtle, on the far right in the front row. You'd never guess she's 90!!

After packing all day Thursday, our dear friends John and Ginger Gay took us out to enjoy some delicious Texas barbecue and Bluebell ice cream. What a treat!

After more packing and loading the car on Friday, we were invited to a festive shrimp boil farewell party, hosted by more dear friends, Rob and Jeannie Coe. What a delightful--and delicious--evening!

Check out all those veggies boiled up with the shrimp....and then even more shrimp!

But it was no problem for this crowd to devour! It's all poured out on long tables covered with a double layer of butcher paper. And then everyone just dives in. No utensils or plates needed for this's a fingers-only proposition!

Everybody looks pretty intent, don't they?

The aftermath...and Jeannie doing K.P.

Saturday and Sunday we spent in Kerrville, which I've already written about. 
Sunday when we returned home from Kerrville, our dear friend Cindy Grieves, who is the Property Manager at Key Allegro Real Estate, took us to a wonderful, luxurious dinner at the Key Allegro Club. It was so nice to have an unhurried evening with Cindy, and really get to know her better. Most of the time when we talk to her, conversation centers around the house or the business. Cindy has been wonderful, as have all they employees at Key Allegro Realty. I can't recommend them highly enough if you're looking for a house to rent!

Yesterday and today, Monday and Tuesday, were pretty much non-stop packing days, with a couple of quick breaks. I went over to the church today to donate a carload of cardmaking and crafting supplies for the crafting group. Here's Stephany, who heads up that group, as well as Family ministries at church:

And I turned in my keys to Susan, our business manager. Caught her hard at work:

Tonight Curt and I took a break to go to the Rockport Theatre and see Jungle Book. Great movie! It's tough leaving Tuesday night movie-night here. What's so special about Tuesdays at the little Rockport Cinema? This is:

And they really mean it! You can bring as big a bowl as you want, and they'll refill it as many times as you want...even once again before you leave! Needless to say, attendance at the movies is pretty high on Tuesday nights around here. Small towns sure are nice!

I had another totally unexpected surprise today. For weeks I've somehow been under the impression that April 29, our moving day, is a Thursday. I've been so busy preparing for the move that I didn't really look at a calendar. This afternoon I discovered that the 29th is Friday. That just added one whole day to my life...and when do you need an extra day more than when you're packing for a move? I feel like I've been given a huge gift! Two more days to finish up instead of one! Ahhhhh, the pressure is off!

And now I'm off to bed to see what dreams I get from watching all the action in Jungle Book while eating 2 large bowls of popcorn. Should be a colorful night!!!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

On the Loose Again!

(The view from our balcony on Key Allegro Island)

Well, our bucket list item was to spend a season living on the coast. We never actually defined what a "season" was. If you're looking at calendar seasons, we actually spent 6...a year and a half. We really enjoyed our time in Rockport, but as we started looking for a home to buy, it became quite apparent that the housing market was beyond our means. So we thought we'd do what we started doing back in 2009: live in the Hill Country and take frequent vacations to Rockport. It'll be even better now than it was then, because we have many good friends whom we can look forward to seeing when we visit the coast. It's a lovely 3 1/2 to 4 hour drive...just long enough to let you know you're really on vacation, but short enough to leave after breakfast and arrive in time for lunch! 

(Sunrise over Aransas Bay. See that tiny speck on the far right? That's the Rainbow, a Rockport-based shrimp boat, and as I took this photo, Curt was on it, shrimping with his good friend and boat captain, Hoang.)

We'll probably spend extended time in Rockport during "cedar season" in the Hill Country...I'm highly allergic to the cedar pollen that makes so many people miserable and sick in December, January, and February. But what better time to hit the south Texas coast?? And with Lucy, our trusty travel trailer, we can set up in one of the many RV parks in Rockport. Now we feel like we'll have the best of both worlds!

Right now we're between those worlds...driving back to Rockport after our last preliminary trip to the "new" house in Kerrville, staging for the big move. Our faithful friends from Riverhill Movers in Kerrville, Carlos, Beto, and Richard, will be at our Rockport house bright and early Thursday morning (eeeeek! That's only 4 days away!) to load everything into their moving truck, our pick-up, trailer, and minivan, and haul it all back to Kerrville. Just a year ago they hauled it all in the other direction!

We've packed up a lot of our belongings, but there's plenty left to keep us more than busy for the next few days. And as everyone who has ever moved knows, it's all the little stuff left over at the very end that's the deadliest! You think you have room for everything, and then you notice how many little piles of miscellany you haven't packed yet. It's amazing how much room that stuff takes!

We've carefully planned this move, taking a month to do the switch in stages. Curt still needs to be careful about the weight he lifts after his major surgery less than 3 months ago, so we've been moving some of the lighter, bulkier items by ourselves over the past few weeks. That'll leave more room in the moving van for the heavy items for our young, strong friends to muscle around. We've spent enough time in the new house now that we have a pretty good idea of where to place all our furniture. And we've been able to have some work done on the house by our new friend Mauricio, while the house is relatively empty. He's done some painting, some tile work, and has fixed up lots of little things around the house that needed attention.

So we have a little over 2 weeks to get settled before we have to head back to Rockport for Curt's follow-up abdominal surgery on May 18. We want to travel back to have the same wonderful surgeon, who we hope will remember where he left all the disconnected parts inside Curt and will be able to find them and reconnect them all. Curt will be in the hospital 5-6 days again, and afterward we'll stay in Rockport another week or two at the guesthouse of our dear friends John and Ginger Gay, while Curt starts his recuperation and gets clearance from his surgeon to travel back to Kerrville.By the time we get back to our new house, all the hard work of moving will be behind us, and we can just enjoy our new home and neighborhood. That's the plan, anyway, and so far it has worked out very well!

Here's our new home in Kerrville. We'll show you lots more pictures of the inside and outside as we get settled:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Day 10, Sunday, The Drive Back

No sunrise photo this was way too early for that! It looked more like this outside:

We all straggled into the kitchen around 4 a.m. to get coffee, tea, and to refill water bottles. Then after fond farewells to Art and Brenda (and to Edgar and Lili who also woke up early to tell us goodbye), we piled our luggage into the backs of two vans and hauled our carcasses into the seats. Art and Brenda had a little bit of downtime...just over an hour. Their next group was due in on the bus from Nogales at 6 a.m. Can you imagine???

Many of us were fighting a nasty respiratory bug, so we all tried to sleep as much as we could on the 8-hour trip North. So instead of snoring, we heard mostly coughing, sneezing and nose-blowing. I must say, all in all, that part was pretty miserable. (No need to sugar-coat things!)

Brenda had supplied each van with apples, oranges, granola bars, banana bread, and fruit juices. So when we could fit in a bite between sneezes, we did.

The ladies got a taste of the reality of living in Mexico when we stopped for a rest stop. Huddled under a blanket under the counter of a filthy public restroom were a mother and her child, trying to sleep on the cold tile floor. Our hearts ached for them. Before leaving, we placed some of our fruit and granola bars near their heads. And we all prayed for them, and for so many like them.

FINALLY we arrived at the border. Here is part of the wall, shot through the window of the van.

Before crossing to the U.S. side, we had to remove all our luggage from the vans, take it inside the building and go through a security check similar to TSA at the airport. No fruit was allowed to go through, so we had to relinquish our last apples and oranges (we were wishing we'd left them all with the mother and child back a couple hundred miles).

That's as far as they allowed photos. Once through the security check, we emerged through another door at the far side of the building and we were in the good old USA!

We loaded our luggage back into the vans and we were ready for one more hour's drive to the Tucson airport....after a stretch break. How do you do that, Kaitlin? And with a SMILE on your face!?!!?

Here's part of the wall on the U.S. Side. I always think it's an interesting design with the footprints going along the length of it...and the little holes through it. Is that an American "in your face" attitude, or is there a kinder message there that I'm missing?

No photos at the airport. Once we arrived, it was a scramble for everyone to get their boarding passes and get to their gates for various points around Idaho, Montana, Texas and parts of Canada. We did have a chance to hug and wish each other well until the next mission trip next year.

Thank you so much for your interest in our trip, and for reading the blog. We put it on Curt's and my personal blog that we started in June 2014, when we took an 11,000 mile camping trip around the eastern U.S. and into the Canadian Maritime Provinces. So if you're interested in reading any of that, please feel free to go back through the archives. We have been really gratified at the response to the blog on this trip. We may open a separate blog for Rocky Mountain Ministries, and if we do, we'll put the address on this blog to direct you to the new one. We're going to try a few things, like putting Lucas's video of the trip on the blog. I'd also like to share some background information of a bit of the history of Rocky Mountain Ministries here within the next few days. So check back here.

As I wind this up we've been home for 3 days, and some of you know that it's been quite a ride in the Shirer household. Curt was admitted to the hospital this morning for emergency abdominal surgery. He's resting quietly now, still in Lala Land. I won't go into detail tonight...will do that in a day or two, since it's 10 pm and I haven't slept since day before yesterday. But do come back here, because I have some great statistics to share with you about this year's mission trip. 

Thanks to all the ministry team, and to all those who supported us and prayed for us from home. We ask that you continue to pray for those whose lives we touched in Mexico. We know God is doing wonderful things in these villages. May His blessings be upon you as well!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Day 9, Saturday, Half Day at Home Base

We always do a half-day at the end of the mission, so we have time to sort out all our supplies, pack everything carefully in the trailer, and then clean up a bit for our final farewell dinner. And since tomorrow morning we LEAVE at 4:30 a.m., we definitely want to end the night fairly early!

After breakfast, I was FINALLY able to get a photo of Art (second from right). Here he is with fellow Montana farmers Brad and Himer (whose real name isn't Himer, but nobody would know who you were talking about if you said Layne). 
A few words about Art. He went with us on our early mission trips as part of the construction crew (farmers can build or fix ANYTHING). In those early days, Brenda was living in a little house in the Ranchitos area of San Carlos. helping short-term mission groups connect with small villages in the area that needed help. By the end of the first mission trip that Art attended, several of us were thinking, "Hmmmm, there could be a match here." And sure enough, in time, Art and Brenda got married and together built this ministry far beyond what either of them could imagine! (Isn't that what God promises?) Now they work together at Casa de Esperanza in the winter and spring, and farm together in Montana in the summer and fall. It's not a coincidence that Brenda came from a Canadian farming family!

Too bad the babies around here are so neglected! Juan Carlos is telling Alek some kind of a secret in Spanish.

 The final set-up:

Mark asked that we have everything as clean as possible for the final packing-up. No need to carry extra tons of Mexico dust back to puts a dent in the gas mileage!

Here's Jessica cleaning off the Triage table:

Helmut and Anna, our greeters extraordinaire! They hail from Canada, and with their 8 children, they head to Mexico every winter in a motor home to escape the cold and to offer their wonderful kids an opportunity to minister alongside them in a different culture. Their children are extremely helpful, upbeat and energetic. They speak several languages (at least German, Spanish, and English; perhaps more.). It was wonderful to see the oldest three, Lili, Edgar and Rosie acting as interpreters when needed. And I got a kick out of listening to the conversations between them...Edgar might ask his sister a question in German, and she'd answer in Spanish. 

Here's the whole wonderful crew:

Another couple was on the move so much that I wasn't able to photograph them together: Mat and Donna from British Columbia were an invaluable asset to our day-to-day operations. They shepherded the local volunteers from the San Carlos Community Church and were always on hand to make sure everything flowed smoothly at each ministry site. Their servant hearts were so evident in everything they did. Donna led the praise music at each evening's devotions (accompanied by the young men Lucas and Edgar on guitar). Here they are in action (there was no other way to catch them!):

Matt showing a patient where to go next:

And Donna checking out the action at the dental hygiene table: 

Their goal is to leave the far north, move to San Carlos to work alongside Brenda and Art full-time.

After another delicious lunch...

The packing continues...

The doctors' tents and the pharmacy are always the last to pack up:

In case you're wondering what we do with leftover meds, they're packed into two separate categories. The ones that will expire before next year's mission will be given to local doctors to dispense to their patients who can't afford to buy them. The meds that will still be current next year are stored in a cool closet in the Andersons' home (remember that 8000 square-foot house?). We keep an inventory from year to year so we know what we already have on hand in Mexico.

And the empty pharmacy boxes? They double as cubbyhole storage in the dorm rooms at Art and Brenda's during the rest of the year.

Almost done!

Here's the final shot of the construction project. Not quite finished. The supports will all be painted black, and the shade canopy will be stretched over it, much like the one over the dining area.

In the afternoon there was a little free time to pack our suitcases, or rest, or shower, or just hang out.

A small group was going shopping at our favorite San Carlos shop, Sagitario. Since I'd missed Wednesday's shopping trip, I jumped in the van to go along. I took lessons from two of our team's power shoppers!

Back at "base camp" I wandered into the main meeting area. Himer had a guitar out, and Hanna started singing hymns in her beautiful soprano. I picked up Edgar's guitar and added my alto, and before we knew it, we had an hour-long impromptu praise and worship session, as more and more people came in and added their voices. When Himer and I had to leave to get cleaned up for dinner, all the others carried on in beautiful acapella 4-part harmony. It was spectacular! I recorded most of the songs on a recording app on my iPad, and a few hours ago when I tried to listen to them, not ONE of them came through. Probably operator error...I don't think I can blame that one on Mexican technology. I'll just have to let the memory of those beautiful hymns suffice.

Meanwhile Brenda and her tireless crew worked hard in the adjacent kitchen, preparing our feast for the evening:

Around 5:30 the volunteers from town, who were invited to our dinner, began arriving. They clean up pretty well, don't you think?

And on our last night in San Carlos, we were treated to a spectacular sunset silhouetting Tetakawi:

Pastor Glenn from the San Carlos Community Church opened in prayer:

And we all enjoyed appetizers and a special meal:

...followed by Mark's closing remarks and Lucas's slide show.

Then off to our rooms to finish packing and catch as many winks as we could before our 4:30 a.m. (sharp!) departure.