Saturday, January 21, 2012


"It takes four hugs a day just to survive..."
Overall it had been an interesting worship service.  About what I had expected. Loud music, charismatic speaker.  I was seated in the front left corner, a perfect spot to lip read the speaker and the musicians.

"eight hugs a day to maintain..."
This is where things were starting to get confusing for me.  What kind of benediction was this? Some sort of feel good benediction to get us through the week?  Something that lacked theological support, something to keep from offending people from various denominations.

"twelve to really grow...."
This was all making sense to me. Hugs are good.  Hugs help you feel connected.  Being connected is good.  This was something I could carry with me through the week, think about as I made new friends in a new place.

"You decide"
The room erupted.  Everyone was hugging everyone else. What was going on? Why were all these people okay with it?

I froze.

That first night was was overwhelming.

Fast forward four years.

I was sitting at the church service just before graduation. The same pastor was speaking that first night. I watched his every word.  We stood for the benediction.  I waited for the words I had come to expect every week.   They didn't come.  My heart broke a little.  Many of us hugged anyways and then we left. A few hours later we graduated.

What had changed in those four years?  Four years.  A very short portion of my life, yet a part of my life that I will never, ever forget.  These people became my family.  They were the ones who held me when I cried, made me laugh so hard that my nose wiggled, and went on adventures with me.  We shared incredible joys and we shared incredible sorrows with each other.  We celebrated as friends got engaged and married, we mourned as friends died. We had fights and we made up afterwards.
But then we left.

We promised to stay in touch, but we still left.
And some of us did stay in touch, but some of us...

I wish I could go back, back to those four years, back to that last day with them and hug and hug and hug.
I wish I had people here that I could hug like that. I wish I had a community that hugged like that.

Four hugs a day just to survive, eight to maintain, twelve to grow.  You decide.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Country Girl in the Big City, Part 2

My first task was to find food.  In the City, on a Saturday night, South Side of Chicago.  Mommy told me I couldn't go anywhere.  So I didn't.  I didn't really want to try and navigate the metra in the dark anyhow.  Some delightful Chicago friends came to my rescue and helped me find food that wasn't going to send me to the hospital.  This was one of those days where not having food allergies would have been a huge blessing.  While I was on the phone ordering delivery (first time for that!) I was literally shaking.  When I got off the phone, I cried some more.  Then I called mommy again.  
My food eventually came (without any utensils) so I ate camp style sitting on my bed, wiping my fingers on a hotel towel.  You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl. After that, I dealt with a few more e-mails (getting engaged results in lots of e-mails!) and curled up into a very soft, very warm bed and drifted off to sleep.
I woke up rested and refreshed and still had oodles of time before I had to check out, so I headed down to the fitness center (silly me didn't have her swim suit along so no pool time for me...even though it was a beautiful 25 meter pool).  A five mile bike and some upper body work and I was ready for some breakfast and a hot shower.  Which I got.
Once I was fed and clean I checked out of my room, let the doorman hail me a cab and went to Whole Foods.  It was a challenge to keep my jaw off the floor and my senses from being overwhelmed.  So many things to smell, so much to look at, so many noises to hear.  They had food in the store that you could buy and then eat.  Like cooked food...brats and brisket and chicken and potatoes and ice cream and cheese and sushi… and they had ingredients on everything! I actually had choices for my lunch.  Real choices I could have had a salad for lunch, but I chose not to, just because I could.  I had some brats and fingerling potatoes with leek and pickles and chicken with asparagus salad…  I had smoked chicken for supper tonight along with all of the above, except the brats.  I left whole foods and asked someone official to point me in the right direction and then I hailed a cab rest the way to the station, just because I could.
The train trip back to Holland was about as eventful as the train trip from Ottumwa to Chicago. Broken rails, broken crossings, broken whistles...We didn't even get out of the train yard in Chicago before we were sitting still getting something fixed.
Eventually I got super bored and instead of sitting in my seat I started pacing the train...front to back, back to front.  At least I got good exercise.
Once I got bored with walking I sat down again in my seat. We finally (!) pulled into Chicago at 11:15 or so. The train was supposed to get in at 9:20. A dear friend of mine had sent her husband to meet me at the station so I didn't have to walk back in the cold dark snowiness that was (Little) Holland with my bags. When I saw him waiting on the platform I sighed with relief. Here was a familiar face in a familiar place and a sure sign that I would be able to tuck myself into my warm bed soon. I got back to my apartment, waded through the snow of my unshoveled walk, called mommy and crawled into bed. Home is a good place to be. And thus ends my adventures in the big city for now.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Country Girl in the Big City, Part 1

Less than 24 hours after getting engaged to the man that I love I left to take the train back to (Little) Holland.  A friend brought be to another friend who drove me to the Amtrak station in Ottumwa.  I was on time and everything looked great.  I checked in with the Burlington Trailways guy (Amtrak and Burlington Trailways share the space and Amtrak is closed on Saturdays and Sundays).  He said the train was running about 15 minutes late.   For a train that was coming all the way from San Francisco, I figured that 15 minutes late was no big deal.  15 minutes turned into half an hour into an hour and eventually, into nearly 2 hours.   I got on the train and Amtrak personal apologized profusely, explaining that a rail further west had broken that morning causing a bottleneck situation.  They figured we'd be able to make good time as we headed east and get into Chicago in decent time.  However, not far from Ottumwa, we were creeping along at a snails pace.  At one point a freight train was backing up beside us and our conductor told us that we would have to do the same maneuver.  Thankfully, we did not have to go backwards at any point, just sit for a very long time. The trip continued to go very slow, with lots of stops in the middle of nowhere.  I got some work done on my computer and even some sleeping.  There were often announcements about how accommodations were being made to get people to connections on time.   The best they could tell me though was to check in with passenger services when we got to Chicago…
My connection in Chicago was scheduled to leave at 5:20.  Our arrival?  Nearly 6pm.  My connection?  Gone.   Cue minor panic.  Actually the minor panic started at about 5:30 when we still hadn't made it to Naperville.   It just got a little less minor once I got to Chicago.
Passenger services at the Chicago station were mostly great.  They gave me a hotel voucher for  the Hyatt Regency at McCormick place, money for a cab and money for food.  If someone was used to  being in a city of any sort, this would have been fine.  However, I am a country girl.  I had never ridden a taxi by myself before (I was in one once in 8th grade when our van broke and we had to get from the service station to the was my dad and 4 of my siblings).  I had never hailed one.  It was dark and cold and I was completely overwhelmed.  My emotions were running ragged.  I stood outside of Union Station and I cried.  I just held my bags and cried.  One taxi driver was waving at me and he didn't seem too friendly.  Horns were honking, there were noises, I couldn't pinpoint any sounds whatsoever (hooray for no directional hearing!) and I cried.  Finally a very nice cab driver pulled up and asked if I needed a cab.  At that point I only nodded.  He asked where and I handed him my hotel voucher.  He loaded my bags and helped me in.   He talked to me as we made our way to the hotel.  There were cab riding "rules" in the back seat but it was too dark to read them.   He got me to the hotel and I nearly had a heart attack.  The hotel I had arrived at was the nicest hotel I had ever seen.  Mommy told me later that it had 4.5 stars out of 5.
I walked into the hotel and felt so out of place I almost wanted to turn around.  But it was warm in there. And warm was a good thing.  I got in, got to my room, called Mom to tell her where I was and proceeded to freak out...over and over and over again. 
Littlest Brother wanted some pictures so here they are:
Crossing the Mighy Miss!  The "H" bridge was always our landmark going to Grandma's house
The view from my window.  All shiney and pretty!
The pretty purple sunrise coming in when I woke up in the morning.
One of the giant comfy beds in my room
Two sinks.  In a hotel room.  Two.
Overall the hotel was amazing.  Way overwhelming though.  I'd rather stay in familiar hotels that is comfortable. :)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy News

Hello Friends and Family and others,
On Sunday January 8 I left for Iowa with my parents, intent on seeing my boyfriend.  On Saturday January 14 I will be leaving my fiancĂ© in Iowa.

David and have known each other for many years, about three or so.  We went to school together and he’s even been to Canada to meet my family before (long before we were dating!). This week we spent much time together building with blocks and building our relationship.

On today (Friday January 13, 2012) we went on an “outing” around town.  We ended up at campus very close to where we had first met.  We were standing by the almost frozen pond talking about some of his writing.  (Joy had to discourage David from walking on the thin ice…perhaps this is a sign that David will attempt to walk on thin ice in the future?!?) David was explaining about a character in one of his pieces that had the ability to create little men out of any object, animate them and send them on his errands.  We thought that a little man of fire or smoke would be especially cool.  Then David started talking about a little metal man.

I saw his hand in his pocket and kept trying to walk away (nerves sometimes do that), but he wouldn’t let me.  He asked me if he could ask me a question.  I told him he could ask but I might not answer.  Next thing I know both he and a metal man are on their respective knees asking me to marry them.

Actually, only David did the asking.  Metal man is a mute…he’s actually headless, so speaking is more difficult.  David says actions are louder than words anyways.  Metal man was holding the ring which happens to be my great grandma’s engagement ring.  It was last worn about 103 years ago.

Naturally I said yes. So now, I no longer have a boyfriend, I have a fiancé.

At this point, no date has been set.

Joy (Joellen) and David

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


*Between Christmas, New Years, and being in Iowa with my boyfriend this week posts have been lacking.  Once school starts again I should be able to post more regularly*

Life is sometimes like playing solitaire.  Every once in a while I need a break from my homework or whatever it is that I’m working on and I pull up a quick game of solitaire to give myself a brain break.  Sure it’s not the healthiest break…getting up and doing jumping jacks or walking the dog or such would be better and might even clear my head better.  Or doing a different project…that would be more productive, but sometimes, solitaire wins.  It’s one of my many vices.
Anyhow, when I’m playing solitaire I like to know what’s coming.  One of the “fun” parts of the game is that you don’t know what’s coming.  Sometimes you have two cards that you could play, playing the right vs. the wrong card could change the entire outcome of the game.  Of course, in computer solitaire you can just undo your move and back it up and try again until you find something that you like or that appears to give you the best outcome.  The computer even tells you when you have no more options and you need to quit beating your head against a wall.  And, if you have the scoring set right, you don’t even lose points!
You have options.  You can look and then cover a card up again, move a card and then unmove it. See a move you should have made much earlier? Reverse and make it.   And the best part? It’s just a computer game and the outcome doesn’t actually matter!
I wonder what life would be like if it was like solitaire.  What if you could try something out, see what happens and then undo it you don't like it without penalty? What if you could peek at an upcoming event and choose whether you want it or not?  What if you could "click through" the next series of options and thereby pick the one most favorable for you? What if you had a clear sign to tell you that it was quitting time and that beating your head against a wall was only going to give you a headache?
Some times I think it would be nice, but I know that that is not how life works.  If that was how life worked there would be no need for faith.   We would constantly be second guessing ourselves, constantly trying to do things over.  Which works if you are existing in a bubble, but we don't exist in a bubble.  If we kept doing do overs then we'd never
get anywhere in life and everyone else would get really annoyed with you.
So I'm coming to realize that I just have to be patient, to wait, to not try and guess what is coming, but to take it has it comes and make the best of it.  And if I get a 5 when I really wanted a jack, well then, I'll just have to make the best of that 5.
"For faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see"  Hebrews 11:1

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Life Saving Information

Somewhere I have a more "New Year's" type blog post saved and it will come soon, but this one is more important, because it may save someone's life.
If you reading this post, you have the capabilities to save someone's life.  I've posted before about how to save lives (The pen looks different now, as shown in this post).  If you don't know how to use an Epi-Pen, please check those posts out.  They contain life saving information.
If you already know how to use an Epi-Pen, please continue reading for further important information.
The creators of Epi-Pen released a warning.
Here it is: "When the blue safety cap is removed from the EpiPen or EpiPen Jr, it is important that it is removed by pulling it straight up.  The blue safety cap should NOT be removed by pulling it sideways or bending and twisting. Inappropriate removal of the blue safety cap may prevent the device from working properly and potentially result in failure to deliver the drug."
Another important reminder is to know the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis or a severe life threatening reaction.
Here are some of the symptoms of anaphylaxis:

Abdominal pain or cramping
Abnormal (high-pitched) breathing sounds
Difficulty breathing
Difficulty swallowing
Fainting, light-headedness, dizziness
Hives, itchiness
Nasal congestion
Nausea, vomiting
Skin redness
Slurred speech

Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
Low blood pressure
Mental confusion
Rapid pulse
Skin that is blue from lack of oxygen or pale from shock
Swelling (angioedema) in the throat that may be severe enough to block the airway
Swelling of the eyes or face

Not every sign or symptom will be present every time.

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition.  It can kill, but it doesn't have to.  The proper medication, administered properly can save lives.  The beauty of epinephrine (the drug in Epi-Pens) is that in most every case it can do no harm. Your body naturally produced epinephrine. The only times it may cause harm is if there is a pre-existing heart condition such that the body cannot withstand a burst of epinephrine.

Please, if you or anyone you know suffers from severe allergies, familiarize yourself with Epi-Pens and the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis.  You can save a life.