Friday, January 31, 2014

Gettin' Schooled

Today I started back to school...kind of. I started taking Romanian language lessons! I'm so very thankful that God provided a good teacher for me. She is obviously knowledgeable and quickly took me back to the basics. She told me that I need to "learn words." Haha! Isn't that an understatement! She told me that conjugations and tenses were easy, I would learn those, for now I just needed to work on learning words that would help me have conversations. Which makes sense. Usually you learn to speak a language before you ever learn to read or write it. Why do we always try and learn a second language by writing everything and working exercises in books? Did you do grammar worksheets when you were 4? Probably not but I bet you still knew how to speak pretty well. So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to learn how to speak...and how to listen. I'm not an aural learner by any means. I'm a visual person which is why I can read Romanian a bit better than I can speak it. When people ask me questions in Romanian I have to really concentrate to make sure I hear everything correctly. After listening to them long enough care, când, and câti all start to run together...

My teacher sent me home with 3 pages of homework, an encouragement ("You will learn it!"), and a promise to help whenever I needed it. I wish I could meet with her 3 times a week so I could get all this faster but I'm very grateful that I was able to find someone near me who is willing to teach me. Hopefully I will learn a lot before I see my kids again!
Getting a lesson in "from," "on," "with," and a whole bunch of other connecting words.
Just have about 40 sentences to write...should be able to knock that out real quick...
Good thing I got a head start on those notecards...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Snow Day

In case you have been living under a rock Atlanta got a little bit of snow on Tuesday.
People were abandoning their cars after being stranded for hours. [Source]

Spaghetti Junction...eerie without all the cars on it. [Source]
Downtown ATL just hours after the snow had been falling. [Source]
Things got bad quickly because all the schools, government agencies, and businesses waited until after the snow started to fall before they called it an early day. Then everyone tried to leave all at once, a disaster we live through on a normal day but significantly compounded by the snow. Deicer trucks couldn't get out on the roads because of all the traffic. I don't blame anyone for waiting until it started actually snowing, we've been through this many times before and gotten little to no actual snow. I don't know that there was a better way to handle the situation. We're just not prepared for this kind of thing! I really feel for the people who had to sleep in their cars and especially the teachers and students who ended up sleeping on buses or at schools.

Everything was pretty much shut down Wednesday.
This about sums it up...
A snow/ice day meant I (tried) to work from home. I didn't have a ton of stuff to do so I quit about an hour and half earlier than I normally would. Bonus: I got to wear my pajama pants and wool socks all day :)
Hope everyone is safe and warm today! Be careful if you're like me and heading back out to work as usual today.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Today I received an interesting friend request on Facebook. The person was someone who I had a falling out with several years ago. They betrayed my trust and I have rarely spoken to them since the incident. This friend request brought up a long struggle I have had with forgiveness.

I have often tried to wrap my head around forgiveness with little success. I know that I should forgive and I have really tried over the years to let this incident go. I continually tell myself and others that I have forgiven the people involved and I have accepted that they acted in accordance with their personalities (so honestly it shouldn't have come as a surprise to me what they did). But I still have pangs in my heart. I'm hurt by the betrayal of someone I considered a friend and by people that I deeply trusted. I'm hurt by the fact that the people involved acted recklessly with no care for how I felt. Yes, it still stings after all this time to think about it.

One thing I have learned though is that forgiveness is an attitude of the mind not a feeling in my heart. I love this quote from Joyce Meyer:

Meyer also points out that forgiveness is not the same as forgetting:
I have often thought that if God wanted to have me "forgive and forget" He wouldn't have equipped me with such a capable memory.

I did at least give this person the chance to tell me their side of the story following the incident. I called them out and told them how much they had hurt me. Basically they admitted to acting on their own selfish impulse and owned up fully to what happened. They said they were sorry but that was about it. After that conversation there has not been much, if any, contact until now. I think we saw each other once but no real dialogue was exchanged.

All that to say...I don't think I will be adding this person as a friend on Facebook. I have forgiven them but I have not forgotten the hurt they caused and, knowing their personality and that they can, will, and do act according to that personality, I do not feel I could trust them again.

What do you think? Did I do the right thing? What would you have done? Should I add them on Facebook and try to "bury the hatchet"?

P.S. Sorry for being so vague about this incident. I do care enough about the person to not totally air their laundry. Also, the incident was deeply wounding for me and, as cathartic as blogging about incidents such as this can be, I'd rather save it for a face to face convo. Thanks for understanding.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

New Year's Resolution-ish

Saturday I was out shopping with my mom when I came across a book:
As you can see from this picture, I bought the book.
I'm a fan of the Eat This, Not That franchise. I have 1 of the Eat This, Not That books and I used to have the Eat This, Not That No Diet, Diet book. Tragically the diet book has gone missing (probably because I lent it out to someone and I can't remember who). One of my long standing goals in life is to eat better. I tend to be from the "I'm-starving-now-and-refuse-to-wait-10-minutes-for-food" line of thinking. However, since I moved in with my parents almost 2 years ago I've been eating soooo much better. I will admit it is because my mom does 90% of the cooking. And it's not super health food, it's just not fast food or 100% canned and boxed crap. My mom makes a good deal of our meals from (relative) scratch. I don't crave fast food any more. In fact, if we have to eat out I really struggle to think of something I will eat at a fast food place. I do better at sit down restaurants but the last one I went to had so much salt in the food that I was nearly dehydrated 3 hours later. So, I've really enjoyed eating better. I've lost weight (also thanks to the sweet home gym we have in the basement), my skin has cleared up a lot, and I no longer feel like death most of the time.

There is just one small problem with eating right...I'm a terrible cook. I mean, seriously, I have made some gross stuff (read: tuna patties). I have no palate for flavors. Until about 4 or 5 years ago I would gag at the mention of mushrooms (now I love them) and I still struggle with onions (properly cooked and in small quantities work for the time being). But I'm beginning to appreciate real cooking. Now, I do have talents in the kitchen. I'm a mean baker. I can make just about any dessert: cheesecake, key lime pie, cobblers...because they all have exact measurements and ingredients. Cooking is the opposite of baking. Cooking is fast and loose. Baking is uptight and strictly measured. Basically I'm anal retentive when it comes to recipes.

But, I'm going to try and learn. I know it's one of those skills that I should have (actually I think it's a skill everyone should have, not just me and this certainly isn't just a "woman's task"). And I want to be able to make healthy food. This book shows you technique. It uses real ingredients and not a bunch of low-fat, low-calories, high-suck factor stuff. This book is going to help teach me how to be a decent cook.

That and lot of old episodes of Master Chef.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


So, if you don't remember from my last post I have had a growing sense of stress (manifesting as lack of motivation) for the past few months that seems to be reaching a head. Today at work I had an especially tough day. It started with some discouraging news and continued with getting corrections and a small lecture before ending with a frustrating reauthorization session. I was nearly in tears as I left the office and started home. Once I was home I verbally vomited on my mom and tried to make some order out of the jumbled chaos that was my brain. And, then my mom surprised me. She talked me through some stuff and even brought up something I had never considered. Then, in a moment of clarity, it was as if God was looking at me and saying, "Melissa...I got this. You're worrying about the wrong thing." And I was. I can't get into the specific details but I was worried about the wrong thing. This has happened before but once again I let the stress of life pull me away from the one who I really needed to be listening to. My quiet time has tanked since Christmas and the only time I pray is when someone else is doing it or in the 5 minutes before I fall asleep in bed each night. It took my mom reminding me that God is still at work, even while I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off. He will work around the circumstances I create. In fact, He is working in such a way that there is literally no way I cannot be in His will. Amazing. Those of you further advanced in your spiritual walks are shaking your heads at me. Don't worry. I'm finally catching on.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lacking Motivation

I'm having serious issues with motivation right now. It's been building for a few months but I feel like we've reaching a new high (or low as the case may be). I think it's the winter doldrums or something like that.

I have no desire to work out any more (not that there was much motivation there to begin with).

The treadmill is not the enemy. The elliptical probably is.
I seriously need to take care of some stuff for Walking With Orphans. Like figuring out how many donations we took in last year. And how many we sent out. I need to send out tax deductible receipts to donors. I need to update the web page and plan out some twitter posts. I need to update the Facebook page too. There are pictures that need to go up and fundraisers to be organized. We have a fun run that needs to be planned, a bank account that needs to be opened, and t-shirt designs that need to be sent to a printer...once we find a printer we like, of course.

Oh nonprofit. I love you so. But why can't you magically run yourself?
 I need to finish editing the 600+ pictures I took in Romania and put those on Facebook. Oh and print some out and send to the kids. And Marian and Vic requested locks for their lockers so I need to get those...

I forgot something: I need to do a monthly newsletter for Walking With Orphans.

I need to find a Romanian tutor (yeah right...good luck with that...nearly impossible). I need to tithe. I need to renew my APA membership. Holy cow I need to study for the NCE! Wait...I need to register for it first. And figure out how many years of supervision I need before I can get fully licensed.

Let's not talk about laundry. Or how scraggly the cat looks. Or how badly my sheets need to be washed. And then there are the shoes that need to be returned that were ordered online.

You know what I really want? I want to give it all to someone else and go, "You handle it. Make a decision and I will support it." I want a glass of wine and a nice view (maybe of some mountains...or the edge of a hot tub...or better yet, the mountains over the edge of a hot tub). I want a massage, a facial, and someone to give me a manicure (because I suck at doing my own nails).

Yes, this will do nicely. [Source]
I want to knit but I want the yarn to magically appear nicely wound in front of me and the needles to be the exact size and length that I need. I want to clear my head and stop rubbing my forehead so that it's not breaking out all the time.

With a 40 hour emotionally draining work week on top of everything else I feel like I'm losing the motivation to do anything. I'll handle this the same way I do everything else, by making a list and slowly chipping away at it. And somewhere in the middle I will suddenly find the will power to keep pushing ahead that I'm looking for. That or I will become so distraught that I will tear the list into a million pieces and burn it in a fit of rage. Or I might become overwhelmed and cry and then eat a bunch of ice cream while watching old episodes of The Muppet Show.

I don't know what kind of therapy this is but it works.
No matter what, I fear I will need medication by the end of it all.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Productive Saturday

Yesterday I woke up a bit earlier than expected and not in the best of moods. However, I was determined to not have the day be a total bust so I took my time getting breakfast and waking up and then headed out with my dad to buy some groceries. I was planning on taking my car to the shop but decided to wait until Monday when I would have a little more time. Instead I headed to Target. I'd been instructed by a co-worker that I needed to "live a little" and actually spend the gift cards I'd been given rather than squirreling them away. I had 4 gift cards and the amount was embarrassing (in that it was so high). I bought myself some new skinny jeans, a pair of jeggings, some socks, a new sports bra, and some contact solution. Just the right amount of responsible and "splurge" (since I consider anything outside of a necessity a splurge, like new jeans when I have 5 pairs...just no skinny ones!).

On a side note I would like to retract what I have previously said about jeggings (which isn't anything nice). I tried on a pair and they were sooooo comfortable. And I'll be darned if I'm not going to wear them. I feel reasonably comfortable with my body and think it would be acceptable of me to wear jeggings with the proper ensemble. So there.

After shopping I came home and cleaned: dusted, vacuumed, picked up a little, did laundry. And then I napped. And it was awesome.

I even had time to finish a little knitting.

Just another Be Faithful hat. I promise I'm actually considering knitting something else.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Breaking Point

I knew it was going to come. I knew there would be a point when something snapped. It might not be a visible moment to everyone but I knew that I would know it when it happened.

And it happened today.

Let me preface this by saying that I have been missing Romania a lot the last few days. I processed a lot with my friend Deanna last Saturday and my mom and I processed a lot on Sunday. There have been thoughts swirling around about a lot of things. In some ways a fog has lifted but that doesn't mean things are clear...does that make sense? Or that the way out of the fog is clear and easy. So, yes...processing, missing, etc., etc., etc.

And I've been having trouble sleeping.

And it's a full moon tonight.

I'm sure this is all related. But back to earlier today.

I snapped. Inside. Where no one could see. But I'd had it today. Because of one post on Facebook.

The following post has had the details edited to protect the person who posted it but the spirit of the message is clear.

The post said: "Who wants to donate to the 'Send Jane to the One Direction Concert Fund'?"

I know the person who posted this and I know that they meant it as a joke. I don't think there are (many) people who seriously post things like that on Facebook. But it made me upset in my gut. I have been fundraising for going on 7 years now for various mission trips. I do not take it lightly.  I have lived through some pretty tight financial times. I have had days where I wasn't sure how I was going to put gas in the car or buy more cat food, much less people food. I've had months where I bounced more checks than I cashed. I never solicit money casually. It is very hard for me to ask for support, even for worthwhile things. And I know the pain of having to scrape by. Not like some people, thank the Lord, but I've worried about finances plenty. To see such a flippant comment made set something off in me.

My boys go to sleep and go to school in the same building. Why? Because they can't find one piece to the heating unit to heat their school. Know what they had for dinner one night? Bread with mashed potatoes in the middle. I saw a boy walking around for 2 weeks crying because he had a toothache while I was in Romania. Know why he couldn't get to the dentist? It was too expensive and time consuming to take him into the city. I don't understand how you could ask for money for a (crappy) concert when these are the scenes played out 1000 times a day the whole world over.

It is not for me to judge people. I struggle with this. I struggle with it a lot some days. I know that people make comments like this to be silly. I'm sure I've made similar sarcastic comments before too. Pot calling the kettle black and all that. I get it. I'm not mad at the person who made the comment. I'm mad at something else. I'm mad at the fact that we live in a society where a Veronica Mars Kickstarter project makes more money than some nonprofits do all year. I'm mad that there are kids who will go to bed hungry tonight in our own country and abroad and celebrities carry around $9000 monogrammed purses. I feel like we take our wants to the point of excess sometimes and that makes me mad.

I know I've just rambled on for way too long. Thanks for hanging in there. I'll be better tomorrow...maybe.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Notes on Knitting

Oh knitting, you fickle mistress...I designated Sunday a day of rest after I spent Saturday moving Walking With Orphan's main office in all its entirety. I stayed in my pajamas and live streamed the 11:00 service from my church and knit.
Live streaming the service. Hermit life at its finest!
Penelope basked in the sun and enjoyed the bonding time.
Bask, bask, bask.
I finished the last little bit of one hat...
Hat #1. I love the cheerful and vibrant colors!
And got a good ways into a second hat.
Hat #2
These hats are a recently discovered, new favorite pattern of mine called Be Faithful. These are the 2nd and 3rd hats I've made with this pattern. And that's saying something because I rarely knit patterns more than once. The parallel between the title of the pattern and the fact that I have knit 3 hats using it is not lost on me.

At some point on Sunday I decided to wash some hand-knit items that were laying around. This included several hats, a large blanket/throw, and a sweater. Typically, I hand wash each piece (or 1-2 same colored pieces) in the sink with some no-rinse wool wash (like Eucalan). I did that with 3 of the hats. Then I decided that I would put the (very) large blanket, the sweater, and Hat #1 (pictured above) in the washer on a wool/hand wash cycle with cold water and Eucalan thrown in. After they finished washing I put them in the dryer on air dry, no heat for about an hour and a half. And guess what. My beautiful hat and part of the blanket felted.
My beautiful hat...
All felted up.
The sweater also felted slightly but not to the point where it's unwearable (which would have made me uber pissed). The blanket was ok. There were a few sections that felted more than others (due to the fiber content of the yarn) but overall it's still ok. But the hat. It took the brunt of the felting.

Now, logic tells me this shouldn't have happened. Cold water, little agitation, air dry. The only thing I can figure is that the hat got caught under the large blanket and there was more agitation than I thought. I know that the cardinal rule of wool is to NOT PUT IT IN THE WASHER AND DRYER (unless it's superwash) so I guess I got what I was asking for. Thankfully the hat is still wearable (just by someone much smaller) and I have more yarn to make a second one THAT WILL NOT GO IN THE WASHER OR DRYER.

All I have to say is: lesson learned.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Moving Day

A little back story... Last year my parents informed me that my bedroom could no longer be Grand Central Station for Walking With Orphans. This was fine with me as I like to do things in my bedroom like walking, getting dressed, and sleeping and with the donations that were continuing to come in I was rapidly losing the ability to do such things. For 6 months I co-rented some space with our VP, Jonathan, in an office building in downtown Buford. It was a very quirky, hipster place with exposed beams and industrial blackout curtains.

It was a very nice space but I never used it very often. 1. Because it was a 45 minute drive from my house and 2. I really only needed the storage space. But it worked. Then Jonathan moved to New York. We decided to stay in the office space and took over rental responsibilities. That brings us up to present time.

The weekend before Christmas I got a call from Jonathan's assistant, Lindsie (we were still paying rent through her because technically the office was still in the Jonathan's name). The landlord for the office building had called Lindsie to tell her that he had rented out the entire floor and that we had to move. By the end of the year. That gave us a little less than a week and half to find, rent, and move to a new place. Oh and both Jonathan and I were not going to be in town after the 26th (I was headed to Romania and Jonathan was back to New York). Lindsie grappled with the landlord and eventually got him to concede to letting us move out by the 12th of January which would give us 3 weeks to find a new place. How kind of him.

After New Year's I tried (halfheartedly, I'll admit) to find a new space. I'd already been through this several times in the past year (once initially and then when Jonathan decided to move and we thought we might not be able to stay in the office) and I was already tired of just the thought of moving. In the end I rented a climate controlled U-Haul storage closet. Yesterday (Saturday) was moving day. Marissa (secretary, treasurer, operations manager, and general bad ass) came out and we loaded up my CR-V and her little sports car.
Yeah. Moving Day. (Please note the sarcasim.)
This is a totally safe way to travel. Right?
It only took one trip and we managed to get everything from the office to the storage unit. I should have taken a picture of the storage unit but it looks pretty much like a metal closet filled to the brim with boxes and bags. I'd love to say that I will get in there and organize it some day soon but frankly I'm over it for the moment. I've already made the executive decision that we're not moving for 6 months unless someone volunteers to move everything for us for free. At least it's done with and I'm taking today (Sunday) off as a reward (and to keep myself from going insane).

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Back in the Swing of Things

I pretty much had to hit the ground running at work on Wednesday despite spending 20 hours traveling the day before. Thankfully the medical assistant who does my scheduling had only put down one new intake for me this week. I have a few kids on my caseload to go see but other than that it's just catching up on things that didn't get finished before I left. Still, there was no day off for me. I've exhausted my leave time and my personal days for the year so I'm waiting it out until February when I get some more time off. We do get MLK day off in a few weeks so that will be a nice opportunity to catch my breath again.

As usual there is always something going on with Walking With Orphans. We have to move our office to a storage unit this weekend since our landlord informed us a month ago he was kicking us out. I also need to finish logging the last donations of the year, file our taxes, and come up with some new system of tracking donations. And I need to figure out most of that before the end of this month so I don't get any further behind. Oh yes, and launch a (big) new campaign and update the website, Facebook page, and Twitter.

Personally I need to take some time to set some New Year's resolutions. Do you think "having more energy" is a reasonable one? I also need to set a new budget, restart my daily quiet time, and get back to my Romanian language lessons. I feel a huge desire to clean things and organize and yet there isn't the time right-this-second to take care of any of it. Oh...and I need to start studying for my licensure test which I will be taking some time this spring.

I really need a team of personal assistants. Any volunteers?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2.5 Hours

On Monday school started in Romania. And my boys came back to the orphanage.
Iulian, me, Florin, and George. My little boys have grown into men!
For about 2 and half hours I watched them play soccer, let them take pictures with my camera, helped them open their presents, and played cards together

This mama's heart is happy again.

Friday, January 3, 2014


We've definitely settled into a routine here at the team house. In the morning we go to one of the orphanages or have an activity (shopping at the glass factory, visiting the open air market, or cleaning around the house) and then in the afternoons there is usually another trip out to an orphanage and the baby hospital.

I love that moment when things seem to calm down a little bit. Everyone has their shower and sleep schedule worked out. We know who likes to visit which orphanage and make room for them to go there daily. We've found a special kid to bond to. We stay up late to talk and play games and get up early to journal. Everyone has found a little niche to fill for the time being.

In a few days we'll be heading home but, for now, I'm enjoying the stability of routine. Tomorrow a large portion of our group will head out so the feel of the house will change a little yet again but I'm looking forward to a few days of having a smaller group and being a little more free with our time.

Not too much else to report at the moment. There has been lots of kid time. I played soccer and Twister and have colored pictures. I've swung kids around like a swing set, danced like an idiot, and just sat and been close to someone for awhile.

I'll leave you with some scenes from a typical day.

The simple joy of play-doh and hanging out in a box.

Some people make their own fashion statements.

Making crafts to help understand God's love for us.

For some reason our backs are always hurting...

Twister time!

Coloring and concentrating.

Who Have I Become?

The internet at the house has been super slow ever since New Years so there may be a few posts that are a little older making their way up here slowly but surely.

On New Year's Day we took presents to a severe special needs orphanage. The first time I went I was totally overwhelmed. I just stood there rubbing a little girl’s hands and crying. The kids are sweet and the conditions are ok there (no worse or better than anywhere else in my opinion) but seeing all those children rocking, screaming, biting their hands, and salivating was a little much for me. I have always said it was the hardest ministry related thing that I have ever done.

The next time I came I was better prepared but I still had this distance towards the kids. I’ve always commended people who feel like they are called to adopt or work with children who have severe special needs. But I always felt like that was for them, not me.

And then I meet Mirela.

Mirela is probably one of the more “normal” looking children from the outside. She is super thin but has good teeth and hair and a sweet, sweet face. One of the workers told us that she had been in foster care and had just been returned to the orphanage about a year ago. Mirela held my hand and waited patiently for her present then showed me everything she got excitedly. She really liked the hair ties and plastic rings. We played “beauty shop” for several minutes while Elena and I put in little pig tails and took pictures each step of the way. Afterwards we tried to talk with Mirela a little and that’s when her needs became obvious. She didn’t know her age or how long she had been in the orphanage or where she had come from. I think she knew that she had a sister at Voluntari (which the staff had already told me) but I don’t know how much else she was capable of understanding. Mirela will never get to go to school or have a job. She will likely not be placed in another foster family. Now that she is at the severe special needs orphanage she will be forgotten in the system. Out of sight, out of mind.

How could you not love this precious face so full of joy?!?!
As I left all I could think about is what will happen to Mirela. If she was in a loving family she might be able to learn simple tasks so she could have some sort of independence. She could never live on her own but she might be able to have a job or go to a special school. Most importantly I could see Mirela thriving in a loving family. She would bring so much joy to anyone who gave her attention. In fact, because she had spent time with a foster family I think she was better off than many of the kids there. She had some social skills that others in her orphanage lack.
Giving some love to this sweet little girl.
Of all the children I have meet I feel a real sense of urgency in getting Mirela out of the orphanage.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Monday night I had the chance to sit down with one of my friends, Dorothy, and chat about Romania. Dorothy was on staff here for 9 months and it was good to get her insight into a lot of things about missions and ministry and life. She came here to teach music to the kids and started the band program that was carried on for 3 years. Dorothy can remember the exact moment that she decided to come to Romania for an extended period of time. By the time she got off the plane in America she had an entire program planned. Dorothy saw a need here that only she could fill.
As we talked I confessed to her that I didn't share her desire. As much as I want to want to come here and run the band program (since I have experience in teaching music and all) it is not a desire that God has placed on my heart. Strangely enough, I really do not feel strongly like I'm supposed to be here for a super long period of time. Maybe 3 months but not necessarily 3 years. And it's not like I'm not open to staying here for a long time. I would love to! But the desire, the calling from God, is not there. As I told Dorothy last night, I haven't found an itch that I feel like only I can scratch here in Romania.

At least, not yet.

Do I feel like I'm called to be here for Iulian and George and Ionut? Yes. I feel like I'm here for the long haul with them. But I'm not sure that it means packing my bags and being here 24/7. Maybe because ministry is more complicated than just being here for 3 or 4 or even 50 kids. It's about programing and managing hundreds of children and creating curriculum and cleaning and working. It's about parenting but about more than parenting. Needless to say I'm feeling a little confused and muddled. I want my heart and my head to want the same thing. I want some type of desire that says, "Sell it all! Move to Romania!" but, at least for today, it's not coming.