Who is in Your Flock?

John 10: 1-5   “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
My other “hat” at school this year, in addition to my music teaching gig, is being an aide in the a.m. Pre-Kindergarten class.  Now, having been a teacher for many years I can honestly say that 4 year -old children are my least favorite age to teach.  My favorite would be 3rd or 4th graders.  They are old enough to know how to do things but young enough to not give you attitude because they know how to do things.
Students in Pre-K can hardly walk without falling over let alone walk in a straight line down the hall without crashing in to at least 5 or 6 other children in the process.  I keep telling the head teacher, Mrs. Sloan, it’s a good thing they are cute because if one more of them makes a break from the middle to the head of the line I’m gonna freak-out. 
We have two preciously adorable Asian girls in our class.  One speaks virtually no English and the other has enough vocabulary to get by.  She knows things like, “No.”  She is really good with that word.  Their mothers are the epitome of Asian beauty: flawless complexion and petite little bodies.  I hate them.  They are very soft spoken and watching their little daughters you would think they would be as well.  But, not to stereotype, there has got to be an elderly grandmother living with them.  The little girls will be working quietly, then turn their head towards us and holler out, full force, “TEACHA.  TEACHA.”  “My name is Miss Dana, may I help you with something.”   “TEACHA.  TEACHA.”  “Yes, we’ve established I’m your teacher, Miss Dana, what do you need?”  “TEACHA.  TEACHA.”  This goes on all morning.
On the fourth day of school we discovered one little boy REALLY wants to finish his projects.  It doesn’t matter if it is time to clean up or not, he REALLY, REALLY wants to finish what he was doing.  Or, as he very emphatically told me, over and over, “I.  Want. To.  Fini.  Shit.”  It was all I could do to keep from using my own expletives back at him, but since I’m a professional I refrained.  Not to mention it is a Christian school.
Another little girl was saying good-bye to her friend at pick up time but her friend didn’t see her open-hug-expectant-arms.  Her bottom lip began to quiver at the over-sight so I ran over and offered her a hug.  She looked up at me and smiled and I asked her if she knew my name.  “It’s Mrs. Sloan.”  I said, “No that’s the other teacher.  I’m Miss Dana.”  Her mom laughed and said her daughter had told her that her two teachers were Mrs. Sloan and Mrs. Slawn.  She was glad to clear up the confusion.
Well, my students may not know my name but they do know my voice.  The gospel of John says:  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. I keep that verse in my head every morning.  When they look back at their Pre-K experience, I don’t care if they remember my name, but I do hope they remember my voice.  A voice that spoke kind words of love over them daily.  A voice that encouraged them to keep trying and do their best even if the task is difficult.  I want them to remember someone who thought they were the greatest kid ever even in the midst of being corrected.
Isaiah 40 says:   Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
Not one of them is missing.  I may not have children of my own, but God has entrusted me with these 16 kids this year.  Mrs. Sloan and Miss Dana will treat His creations with care…even if it kills us!!

Racing to Save Lives

Luci Smith

I have a fabulous friend.  Her name is the name I would have given a daughter if I had been blessed with one.  That name is Luci.  Luci Smith to be exact.  Here’s a little something about Luci.

I’m training to participate in the Nike Women’s Marathon as a member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team In Training. All of us on Team In Training are raising funds to help stop leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma from taking more lives. I am completing this event in honor of all individuals who are battling blood cancers. These people are the real heroes on our team, and we need your support to cross the ultimate finish line – a cure.
For more information and to help, check out Luci’s website.
Luci and her 2011 6th Place
Portland to Coast Team
Toe-Jammin’

Tired Tires

We’ve all heard the Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars analogy, as well as my favorite, because it involves food, Men are Waffles and Women are Spaghetti.  And of course we all know a major difference between men and women is that men are more visual than women.

Never is that point driven home more for me than when it comes to tires.  I have never had a woman mention to me that the air in my right front tire is looking low.  Or ask when was the last time I had my tires rotated.  Women do comment on what I’m wearing or notice that I’ve recently had a haircut.  But not once has a women commented on the status of my tires.  No, I leave the tire maintenance reminders up to the men in my life.

One day last week my friend Eric told me I needed to have some air put in my right rear tire.  Then on Sunday he reminded me again.  He reminded me cuz I keep forgetting to do it (kind of like remembering to change my oil).  Then Tuesday night another friend mentioned it needed some attention.  Fortunately he had a tire pump, or did he call it a compressor, at his house so he did it for me.

Neither one of the wives of these men noticed that my tires were in need of attention.  Fortunately though for me their husbands did.  So all you wives out there listen up, cook your man a nice dinner, give him a big kiss and whatever else that may lead to and say thank you.  He may not do the dishes or take out the garbage without being asked but I bet you never have to remind him to put air in your tires.

Question:  Do you procrastinate with car maintenance?

ITALY Part 3: The Cinque Terre

One of the five towns of The Cinque Terre

Other than my first day in Rome, The Cinque Terre was the first place I was actually able to move about and experience.  It is located along the Ligurian coastline and consists of five colorful villages, laid out like candy necklaces, hanging off the cliffs.  The towns don’t even seem real.  From a distance they look like little fairytale villages.  I halfway expected deformed creatures in robes to come out and greet us. 

Eddie, Amy and Linda on our boat ride.
Wish I had a pictue of the cliff jumpers…
The two things I REALLY wanted to do while there was walk the paths connecting the five towns and cliff dive into the water.  Unfortunately my knee kept me from that fun plan (Stupido!).  It was probably for the best though that I messed up my knee in Rome because if I hurt myself climbing up a 3 ½ foot pillar I can only imagine what damage I would have done jumping off a cliff.



Our Agriturismo

Our lodging arrangements were a little piece of heaven.  We stayed at an Agriturismo, which is kind of like a working farm B&B.  I highly recommend going this route.  Basically we stayed at a working winery.  How fun!!  The funniest part was that they all closed up shop and headed home in the early evening and left us free reign of the place.  But we behaved ourselves.  Except for the night Eddie taught the crowd a bunch of swear words and phrases in Italian.

It was quite an adventure finding our lodging.  But after fixing a flat tire and driving up, up, up and down, down, way down the winding, winding road two or three times, we finally found it.  It was definitely worth the effort.  Once there, I didn’t actually have to put out as much effort as Eddie, Amy and Linda because I, being on crutches and all ya know, was driven up and down the hilly path into the winery and on into village of Monterosso while the others got their cardio workouts in daily.
Our lovely veranda
We had pizza and wine in the evenings on the veranda overlooking their winery and the town of Monterosso below.  I could have stayed their all week, but alas we only had three days. 
So, in addition to Tuscany, thankfully the trails and cliffs of The Cinque Terra will also still be there in a few years.
Question:  What would you do if you found yourself unsupervised in a winery?

ITALY Part 2: The American Paziente

Italy was so “Italy” that I am planning another trip back.  One of the main reasons I want to return is because I missed quite a bit of it this time around.  You see, I am a bit of a klutz.
Amy and Linda on the
 sight-seeing bus
We had a whirlwind first day busing around Rome and visiting The Vatican.  Dinner that night was lasagna and ravioli, caprese salad (my new favorite thing in the world) and chocolate soufflé at a restaurant in the Piazza Navona.  We also had wine that cost 35 Euros which we later found in a market for only 6.90 Euros.  Can you say markup?  We chose that particular restaurant because Amy liked the red checkered tablecloths.  Afterwards we strolled through the streets and got lost in the ambiance of Rome.  I was looking forward to many more “getting lost” moments on this trip.
The Colosseum
So I began our second morning with great anticipation.  We arrived at The Colosseum and I was so excited to see where the Gladiators did their thang (Love me that Russell Crowe, I do!).  As we were walking around the exterior to get to the entrance, we came across some 3 ½ foot statue-less pillars.  Several people were standing on them being mock statues.  Wanting in on the fun, I ran over to hop on top of a pillar in back.
Well, being a chubby 50 year-old broad, just “hopping up” wasn’t exactly going to happen.  Not wanting to scratch my knees I thought I would just stretch my foot up and then hoist myself the rest of the way; which I did very successfully.  So successfully that I kept going once I reached the top.
As I was headed over the side my first thought was, “Oh, this is going to be so embarrassing!”  As I saw my backpack go flying and realized I was going down head first my next thought was, “Oh my, this is going to hurt.”  Then when my right leg came down to take it’s next step my last thought was, “Oh crap, I’ve just ruined the trip.”
The Colosseum people
wouldn’t let me move
As I laid there on the ground, clutching my knee to my chest, caring English speaking (thankfully) strangers gathered around me and asked if I needed anything.  “I need my friends,” I said.  Eddie appeared on my left and I reached up and grabbed his hand; possibly breaking one or two of his fingers.  Being a former emergency room supervisor he questioned me, “Dana, I see that you are holding your right knee.  Is that where it hurts?”  How professional.  “It bent backwards when I fell,” I whimpered.  “Ooooo,” went the crowd.
As I struggled to stand up a woman from inside the Colosseum motioned with her hands and hollered something in Italian which we assumed meant, “No, stay down.  I work here and am sending someone out to help you.”  Okey-doke.  A few minutes later a nice man came out and helped me stand up.  As I sort of stood, a strange sensation came over me.  I wouldn’t exactly call it pain, even though it was painful.  I would have to label it an unpleasant, un-natural, uncomfortable, never want to feel again feeling.  Normally knees move from a bent knee to a straight leg position.  I now know what it feels like for your knee to move completely side to side.  Not pleasant, natural or comfortable.
Waiting for the ambulance
A little screech from me caused them to call an ambulance.  My brain went straight from, “But I don’t have my Kaiser card,” to, “But I have Linda.”  Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Linda.  “Not to worry,” were her comforting words.

 

Linda trying to communicate with
the ambulance drivers.
One looks like he is flipping
her off.



The ambulance arrived and out jumped three very cute Italian heroes.  Whee!!  They assessed my knee and concurred I needed to go to the hospital.  So far none of the Colosseum workers or the ambulance drivers spoke English.  Amy was busy looking up words being thrown at us in our Rick Steve’s Italian travel guide book.  When I heard, “Uno, Due, Tre,” I realized they were counting to three to switch me from the pillar to the gurney.  Unfortunately, I reacted to it too early and went up on due and came down on tre only to hear three really cute ambulance drivers go, “Umph,” and drop me back down on the pillar.  My first thought confirmed; it was going to be so embarrassing.  Well, the biggest ambulance driver laughed and pushed his partners aside and picked me up himself and plopped me safely on the gurney.  That ride alone was worth the price of the ticket.

Umph!



Since Linda was going to ride with me in the ambulance, I told Eddie and Amy to go ahead and see the Colosseum.  Being good friends they of course hopped in a taxi with the words San Giovanni Hospital given to them by the Colosseum representative.  Sadly, it got lost in translation and the taxi driver took them to an Opera House.  “Ospedale, Ospedale,” Amy kept saying.  They eventually made it to me.



Eddie and his Alpha Romeo

It was very surreal seeing the Colosseum out the ambulance windows as we drove away.  I just kept laughing, thinking this isn’t happening.  But indeed it was.  Five-ish hours later I was crammed in the backseat of a little Alpha Romeo sports car (Eddie was so cool driving that ride) to travel to Cortona, leg sprawled across Linda the entire way.  Turns out I did something to my ACL when I hyper-extended my knee.  At the time I wasn’t sure what that meant.  Now I do.  It means lots of physical therapy and then in a year or so I should be good as new.

Poor Linda
Many other crazy things ensued during those five or so hours, but suffice it to say, “I LOVE MY FRIENDS.”  I don’t know what I would have done without them.  Maybe I’ll cover those stories in another blog post someday.  It will make you laugh and appreciate your friends as well.



My perch for the week
in Tuscany

I spent the next 7 days in our Cortona home not able to get out because I couldn’t maneuver the stairs or hills of the town.  So, Assisi, Florence and the rest of Tuscany is being saved for me on another trip.  But I had a beautiful place to recoup: a lovely balcony with a gorgeous view.  And I lived vicariously through Linda, Amy and Eddie.  As well as bringing stories home every evening they also brought me food, wine and gelato.  Oh, and a beautiful wooden cross from Assisi.

So, even though I am a klutz, God worked everything out.  I was spared hitting my head on the corner of the pillar or landing head first and being paralyzed.  When I think of those alternatives, a hurt knee isn’t so bad.  So all in all, God is good and I will be fine.  Tuscany will still be there in a few years.
During this frightening, confusing and painful experience this single gal had three other single pals to rely on.  We all need that in life.  Thanks Guys!
More highlights on Thursday…
Question:  Ever been badly hurt on a vacation and had to alter your plans a bit?