Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Visitors from Atlanta

Mark, Charity, and Freedom Chan were passing through Memphis on their way to Missouri and then on to Kansas, so they stopped and stayed the night at our house. What a blessing it was to spend some time with them again after so many months. There just aren't words to adequately express how much their friendship has meant to Rusty and I through the years. Charity's sweet, smiling face was one of the first to greet us when we stepped off the plane at Narita Airport over eight years ago. Mark and Rusty have many common interests, including travel, missions, and let us not forget disc golf. Charity and I had our babies within 6 months of each other, and the Chans were some of our first visitors in the hospital, so I guess that makes Freedom one of Alex's oldest friends! We have worked together, camped together, eaten together, worshipped together, played together, and prayed together... and experienced the joys (and the trials) of living in a foreign country together.

Rusty made his famous Thai curry, which Mark is especially fond of. Rusty and Rachel Woods, from two doors down and also with Japan connections, joined us for dinner. Rachel brought some yummy cookies and cupcakes to enjoy after dinner along with the chai (by popular request).

Freedom and Alex enjoyed watching "Nemo"...

... taking a bath...

... and jumping on the bed together.

We stayed up entirely too late, trying to squeeze in as much visiting as possible. The Chans left this morning. We were sorry they couldn't stay longer, but we'll just look forward to the next time we can enjoy each other's company.

Thanks for stopping, guys. Jya ne! (See you later.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Slightly Traumatized!

Okay, I just have to share that watching the doctor pull the pins out of my son's arm this morning was the most frightening thing I think I've witnessed in a long time. Alex was so good while she was cutting his cast off of his arm. I thought he would be scared of the cast cutter because it's so loud (and he hates the vacuum cleaner), but he just sat there quite contendly in his daddy's lap.

With the cast off, we could see the pins sticking out of his elbow. So I asked the doctor, "Now what?" And she says, "Now, I pull the pins out." Then she proceeds to grasp his wrist and pull on one of the little knobs, and a pin as long as my finger came out of his elbow! I am not kidding! If the way Alex started yelling was any indication, it hurt like you know what. I am still kind of in shock that she didn't even give him a local anesthetic.

Oh, well, it is over, and the good news is that the bone is healed, and he won't have to wear a sling. She wants to see us again in three weeks. In the meantime, I am not supposed to let him be too active. Ummm... okay. That will be a piece of cake, I'm sure.

See? I told you I wasn't kidding!

Monday, December 10, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

With everything that has been going on lately (broken arm, Alex being sick with a double ear infection, Rusty stressing out over term papers and finals), Christmas spirit has been in short supply around here. Until last weekend, that is. Last weekend, we finally got our tree up, lights hung, and our apartment decorated for Christmas. Holiday candles are filling the house with yummy scents, Christmas music is softly playing in the background, and I am finally feeling a bit more festive. This is the first year since Rusty and I have been married that we have been able to hang all our ornaments on our tree at the same time! We had tiny 3-foot trees for the first several Christmasses of our marriage. When we celebrated our first Christmas "at home" in Japan in 2005, we had a 5-foot tree, but we had left a lot of our ornaments in boxes at my parents' house. Seeing that tree in the corner hung with all the special ornaments we have collected over the years just warms my heart. It's not Martha Stewart, but to me, it's just beautiful!

Last night, Rusty put the finishing touch on our Christmas decor -- he set up the model train that belonged to his dad around the base of the tree. The look on Alex' face was priceless. I think he would have watched it go around and around all night. When Rusty would turn it off, he would say "More choo-choo!"

In other news, Alex gets his cast off tomorrow (hallelujah!), we enjoyed a nice visit with my parents this past week (pictures to follow soon, I hope), and the end of the semester is in sight. Rusty has two finals to take this week and then he is finished (for a couple of weeks anyway) and can enjoy a well-deserved break. We will be heading to Michigan for the holidays this year, and I am hoping for a white Christmas!

Friday, November 23, 2007

As if we needed anymore stress...

Whelp... you guessed it. Our little boy has a broken arm! It happened a week ago Thursday when Alex and Rusty were wrestling on our bed. Rusty was picking him up and throwing him down into a pile of fresh laundry (because, well, that's just what you do when Mommy dumps a bunch of clean clothes on the bed). Anyway, Alex fell on his left arm in just the right way and broke it, right above the elbow. We didn't think he had broken it at first, just bruised or maybe sprained it. I called our pediatrician and consulted with the nurse on call. She told me to give him half an hour and see if he calmed down. We watched a movie together, he calmed down, went to bed without any problems, and slept all night. But when we got up the next morning, his arm was swollen, so I decided to take him in and have his arm checked out.

The doctor said she was pretty sure it was indeed broken, so she sent us for x-rays where this was confirmed. Oh, but wait... it gets better! Later that afternoon, we went to an orthopedic clinic where they were going to set the bone and put him into a cast. When we finally get in to see the doctor, he tells us he thinks Alex needs surgery on his arm and pins put into his elbow to help it heal properly. So, they put him in a temporary cast (picture above) and sent us home with the surgery scheduled for Monday morning.

On Monday, we drove out to Baptist Germantown Surgery Center. They asked us to be there at 7:30, called us back to pre-op at around 8:30, and finally took him back for his surgery after 9:00. Of course, Alex couldn't have anything to eat or drink all this time, so he was pretty cranky. When they were ready to take him back, they let Rusty help push the bed out into the hall, and then we just quietly hung back while they wheeled him down to the OR. It's really the first thing he's had to face without one of us by his side, and I will never forget how I felt as I watched him going down that hall, holding onto the sides of the bed, thinking he was just going for a ride...

In his hospital gown, just before going to the OR

In the recovery room

The surgery went well, and Alex was back to his normal self by evening. His cast will stay on for three weeks. Then it will come off and the pins will come out and he will be fitted with some kind of temporary cast/sling that we can take on and off. So far, he seems to be coping with the cast fairly well. Toddlers are so resilient and adaptable. The hardest part, I think, will be coming up with things for him to do for the next three weeks since I don't want to let him play outside too much. Anyone have any suggestions? Other than letting him get hopelessly addicted to TV? I fear we are already well on our way to that one. Since the night he broke his arm, he's watched "Cars" about 50 times, I think, and it's only been a week since the accident!

Monday, November 19, 2007

My First Camping Trip

So, you know this thing they call "camping?" It rocks!!! I had so much fun on our recent camping trip in eastern Arkansas. I went with Robert and Teague, Danny and Katie, and Nathan. And Jordan came for part of the day on Saturday. Oh, yeah, not to forget my parents -- they came too.

I thought sleeping in the tent was cool. Even though it got really cold at night, I was nice and toasty because I got to sleep right between Mommy and Daddy. I liked watching the campfire, and I made sure that everyone knew it was very "hot." That's one of my new words -- have I mentioned that I am talking a lot more now? I learn new words every day.

During the day, I enjoyed playing with my big green ball and making friends with the kids in the campsite next to ours. We went for a walk down to the lake, and I got to wade in the water -- it was so cold! Then my big green ball got away from me and started floating out to sea, so my Daddy ('cause he loves me so much, I guess) went for a swim and got it back for me.

We also went for a hike up this rocky mound called Sugarloaf. I rode in the baby backpack all the way up to the top and back down again. Coming down was a little scary, and I cried, but once we got to the bottom, I was okay.

Oh, and the best part of the whole camping experience? Toasted marshmallows and s'mores! Boy, were they ever good! I had several marshmallows, and then I fell asleep on Mommy's lap while everyone sang songs around the campfire.

I hope we go camping again soon!

Playing ball

Enjoying the autumn leaves

Alex and Danny

In the hammock -- love what that static electricity is doing to his hair!

The marshmallow was yummy, but I didn't like the way it stuck to my fingers!

Friday, November 16, 2007


This is the Japanese word for "country bumpkin," and I thought it an apt description of these pics of Alex in his denim overalls. Doesn't he look like a little farm boy?

Alex loves to play in Mackenzie's little toy house.

Girl Scout cookies? You bet I want some!

Diggin' in the dirt

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I thought about titling this post "World Mission Workshop" since that's what this post is really about -- our trip to OKC at the end of October for the WMW. However, it has been my experience when attending these types of seminars/workshops/forums, that they are more about rekindling relationships than gaining knowledge from classes, keynotes, and presentations.
So, "Reunion" seemed to be the more appropriate title. We reconnected with so many dear friends and former coworkers from our Japan days. Rusty saw several people he knew from his time as a student at OC. I ran into several ex-Africa-missionaries and lots of "next generation" Kenya MK's. Meaning that they were all a lot younger than me -- most of them are college students now. I am embarrassed to say that I did not recognize the majority of them until they introduced themselves to me! I mean, they were just kids, my brother's age or younger when I graduated from high school, so they have done a lot of changing and growing up over the last 10 years or so.

Alex also enjoyed a reunion with his friend, Stone. In fact, the Lj's were gracious enough to open their home to us while we were in Oklahoma City. We are so glad they did, because it gave us more time to visit with them than we would have had otherwise. And the boys so enjoyed playing together! Pictures below:

Our team had a booth in the student center, and we were able to make quite a few promising contacts. We took in a few workshop-related activities, although it's much more difficult to really engage in these things when you are chasing a toddler all day and have to work a naptime into the schedule somewhere! Mostly, we just enjoyed the sweet fellowship.

In times of reunion like this, I think we catch a glimpse of what Heaven is going to be like someday. And I thank God for those glimpses -- they encourage me to keep pressing on!

Thursday, November 01, 2007


My grandfather, Dean Clutter, passed from this life into the arms of his Heavenly Father on Monday, October 29th. The funeral will be next Tuesday, so Rusty and I are making an unplanned trip to Michigan this weekend. Since my mom called to tell me the news, I have been thinking of how to put into words what this man has meant in my life.

I am a writer more than I am a talker. I have always loved language and usually find self-expression easier with the written word than with the spoken word. However, I am a bit overwhelmed with the impossibility of this task. How do I give voice to the memories and express my deep appreciation for the legacy of faith my grandfather left me? Words seem inadequate somehow. But I will try…

Growing up overseas meant that time with my grandparents was limited. However, when I started making a list, I was surprised at how many memories of Grandaddy came to mind.

I remember his nicknames. He had nicknames for everyone! “Snicklefritz” was probably my all-time favorite. When my sister came along, she became “Fritz-a-snickle.” He also called her “Band-aid Girl” because there was a time in Julie’s younger years when she was always covered in Band-aids (to keep her from scratching her mosquito bites until they bled). In later years, he called me “Giggles” because I tend to laugh at almost everything!

I remember his jokes and teasing, his blue eyes sparkling and alive with mischief. He loved humor and making people laugh. He was also one easily overcome by emotion. He would get choked up over saying goodbye, or on special occasions, like when I asked him to give the welcoming words at my wedding.

I remember fishing with Grandaddy. He has always been an avid fisherman. Every furlough when we went to visit, he would take us kids out for the day on his boat. We would eat lunch, catch fish and get sunburned and seasick. Then, we would come home and Grandmother would fry up the fish we caught that day for supper. Yum!

I remember the summer I spent with them between my sophomore and junior years in college. I got a job at the Kroger deli and saved up my money to spend in Europe that fall on the Vienna Studies program. Grandaddy drove me to work and picked me up each day (and teased me mercilessly about one of the baggers, who was always flirting with me). I remember dinner-time conversations and the enjoyment of having my grandparents “all to myself” for awhile.

I remember his basement. His pool table, where he taught me to shoot pool (I was never very good)… his wood shop, where he would sometimes let us tinker. The three-tiered shelf he made for me long ago hung on my bedroom wall throughout my growing up years. I still have it, in storage at my parents’ house, and someday, I plan for it to hang on the wall in my home again.

I remember the Christmas several years ago, when Grandaddy got out the bugle he played during his time as a Bugle Boy in WWII and played it for us. It was the first time I (or any of us) had ever heard him talk about his experiences in the war so long ago.

I remember his preaching. He was a preacher for more than 60 years, and he was still preaching, right up until the time he was admitted to the hospital. He was 83 years old when he died, and I don’t know that he ever had plans to retire! His lessons were always clear, well-organized and thought out, and grounded in Scripture.

His legacy of faith is probably the one thing I am most appreciative of when I think of what he has meant to me over the years. It was passed on to my mom, who married a missionary/preacher, and through my parents to me, married to a ministry student and hopeful missionary. His example of life-long Kingdom service inspires and humbles me.

The idea of legacy has been on my mind since I first received word of his passing. There is a song by Nichole Nordeman called “Legacy” that expresses my thoughts perhaps better than my own scribblings can:

I want to leave a legacy

How will they remember me?

Did I choose to love?

Did I point to You enough

To make a mark on things?

I want to leave an offering

A child of mercy and grace

Who blessed your name unapologetically

And leave that kind of legacy

I read these words or hear them sung and think that they could have been written specifically for my grandfather. I truly believe that when he went Home, he was indeed welcomed with the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Read more tributes to Dean here and here.
Listen to "Legacy"
"Legacy" lyrics

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fall Fest

We had a great time at HUGSR's annual Fall Fest two weekends ago. The format was a little different from what Rusty and I remembered in days of yore. Instead of catered Corky's Barbeque, everyone entered soup in a contest to be judged. Rusty made his famous Thai curry. Also, instead of the traditional pumpkin carving contest, they let us take home the pumpkins to carve when it got closer to Halloween.

Alex enjoyed the festivities as well, and spent most of his time racing round and round the courtyard, "roaring" at everyone. He was absolutely adorable in his lion costume! He screamed and cried when I first put it on him, but he got used to it eventually and even won a prize for the cutest kid! It was good to get in a little practice before the actual trick-or-treating event.

Our little lion (side-note: Alex is wearing al paca slippers from Bolivia. They were the perfect finishing touch to his costume!)

Who can resist this face?

Alex and Mackenzie (for more adorable pictures of these two, visit Laurel's blog)

Alex and Alexander Campbell (aka friend and neighbor Jacob Parnell)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Team Meeting

Well, now that my last post is out of the way (you have no idea how long that has been hanging over my head!), I can move on to other news -- like the team meeting we had recently!

On Oct. 12-13, our entire team was physically together for the first time, and we enjoyed a wonderful weekend of fellowship and getting to know each other. The main purpose of our meeting was to go over the DISC personality profiles and discuss team dynamics and related issues. Dr. Carlus Gupton, an adjunct professor for HUGSR, was down for the week to teach a short course, and as the DISC is one of his "specialties," he graciously agreed to spend some time working with our team. We learned a lot about ourselves and about each other -- and about our potential strengths and weaknesses as a team. Definitely time well-spent.

Of course, all work and no play makes for an extremely dull weekend, so we made sure to build in some fun activities too! We shared meals, made icecream, played disc golf, and spent some time on Beale Street in downtown Memphis. Rusty and I feel so blessed by these developing relationships and look forward to the next time we'll all be together in November!

Rusty demonstrates perfect disc-throwing form.
Alex and Teague

Alex helps Danny and Jordan make icecream.

Angola Team (back row from left: Robert Meyer, Rusty Campbell, Danny Reese; front row from left: Teague Meyer, Jordan Yarborough, Laura Campbell, Katie Reese, Nathan Holland)

Saturday, October 20, 2007


When we were forced to return to Portland a little over a year ago, our lives were in limbo for several months. After the initial crisis had passed and life began to take on a semblance of normalcy again, we started praying about and discussing the question "Where do we go from here?" We considered settling in the Northwest for a time. Rusty could get a ministry job and work on his degree long-distance. Several discouraging months passed... letters of interest were sent... and letters of rejection came back. No doors opened, not even a crack. Never even an interview.

Okay then, maybe I could get a job. Rusty could keep his part-time job at Starbucks (and the awesome benefits), and finish his degree quicker since he wouldn't be working full-time. I applied for the same job at Cascade College (my alma mater) twice... and was turned down both times. The second time, I was actually invited to apply (I don't think I would have done so otherwise). I was given an interview and had high hopes... but then the rejection letter came. A door had barely cracked, then slammed shut.

Settling semi-permanently in the Northwest didn't seem to be an option. We began to wonder if maybe God had other things in mind. Maybe "settling" was not something we were meant to do just yet. Maybe we are never meant to "settle," but that's a discussion for another time.

We began to discuss our goals, and found that they boiled down to two things. Goal #1 - Rusty needed to finish the degree he started five years ago. Goal #2 - We needed to realize our dreams for doing mission work in Africa. When we began focusing on our goals, the answer to "Where do we go from here?" seemed obvious. We needed to move back to Memphis.

Almost immediately, doors started opening left and right. We made a trip to Memphis in April and found out... that Rusty could finish his degree in 1-2 years... that there was a 2-bedroom apartment available on-campus for us... that Rusty could transfer to a Starbucks in Memphis. I was even offered a job, pending that the current employee found a teaching job (she did).

So we made the move, and now here we are in Memphis. Rusty is working, being a part-time stay-at-home dad, and taking classes. I am working, being "mom," and keeping the house. Life will be busy for at least the next 18 months, but I for one am so much happier (even though I don't necessarily enjoy being a working mother) because I feel like we have a focus and a direction.

Now for some discussion about Goal #2. Some may be wondering... Africa? Why Africa? Why not go back to Japan? Let me first say (so there is no doubt) that WE LOVE JAPAN! We spent four years there and will always look back on them as some of the best years of our lives. We forged deep friendships with special people, both Japanese and gaijin. We had some unique experiences and made many wonderful memories. We will always have a special place in our hearts for Japan and pray for the kingdom work that is being done there. (And there is not a day that goes by that we don't miss onsens!)

Well, Africa is something that has also always been on both our hearts. There is such a wrenching and tugging that goes on inside us when we think of choosing between Africa and Japan. Because, try as we might, we simply cannot be in two places at once. Several years ago, we thought we had made Africa our final choice. We made some promises. We didn't keep them. We went back to Japan instead. We have some regrets -- not about going back to Japan, because God used that year for good in so many ways -- but about not keeping our word and letting people down.

Now, nearly three years later, the doors in certain parts of Africa that once stood wide open appear to be closed, at least to us. We are disappointed... but not surprised. Life moves on. The doors God opens to us will not always remain open indefinitely. So we have spent this last year praying that He will open another door and direct our hearts to another people, another work. And He has answered in a surprising way, a way that has definitely required a major paradigm shift for both of us.

For the last several months, Rusty and I have been in prayerful discussion with a group of people who are forming a team for mission work in Angola. If you don't know much about Angola, don't worry -- we didn't either! Not many people do. That's because, for the last 40+ years (longer than we have been alive!), Angola has been embroiled in civil war. However, peace has finally come to this African nation that is twice the size of Texas, and as history has shown us, often the years of highest receptivity to the gospel are the initial years of peace following a long conflict. For more information about Angola and the team that is forming, I hope you'll visit the Angola Team website (a permanent link will be posted in the sidebar under "Mission Teams Around the World").

Rusty and I have not made a 100% firm commitment to the team as of yet. We are trying to take it slow, be prayerful, and learn from our past mistakes! However, at this point, all the signs look promising, and the door seems to be cracking ever wider. At this point, we are committed to going on the survey trip with the team next summer (2008), which in itself feels like a pretty major commitment seeing as we will have to raise over $10,000 in order to go! (Oh, me of little faith... I know God will provide as he always does. Still, it is a daunting figure.)

Please lift us before the Father as we consider this door, this amazing opportunity!

(Photo courtesy of David Schauer on stock.xchng)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"The Mom Song"

Just had to share this little video that is all the rage on YouTube right now. Turn up your speakers and get ready to laugh -- you will be in stitches by the end!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Let's All Go to the Fair!

This past Saturday, we decided to take a break from our usual activities -- which lately have involved mostly unpacking, organizing, cleaning, assembling furniture, hitting yard sales, and decorating -- and went to the Mid-South Fair. As someone who has lived 22 of my 30 years in foreign countries, I can tell you that there is nothing more quintessentially American than going to the county fair (unless it is attending a high school football game -- the two rank pretty equally in my mind).

It was a perfectly gorgeous day, as the days in Memphis this time of year tend to be (we're still enjoying summer for all you folks up north). We put Alex in his stroller and walked around for a bit, taking in the sights. Alex was especially fascinated by all the animals, especially the cows. He kept saying "Moooo. Moooo," as we walked past them. There was a special activity center for kids where they could do things like gather eggs, pick apples, dig up potatoes, and milk cows. Of course, none of it was "for real," but Alex had a good time anyway. There was also an awesome petting zoo with some really exotic animals like llamas, yaks, and camels, in addition to all the ordinary farm animals.

Of course, no trip to the fair would be complete without some of that oh-so-yummy fair food. We finished off our day with a lunch of corndogs and fresh squeezed lemonade, and an elephant ear dusted with cinnamon sugar for dessert. You can't get much more American than that!

Here are some pictures of our day:

Picking apples

Look what I found!

You want me to put my hand where?!


It's hard to tell who is having more fun here!

I love the look Alex is giving the yak in this pic!

Petting the camel

So this is a duck?

Feeding the sheep -- he wanted to try, but he would start giggling and pull his hand away when they started nibbling.

"Hey... Is your mama a llama?" (This is one of his favorite books right now.)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mommy's Little Helper

Lately, Alex has become an eager little beaver when it comes to helping around the house. He helps me sort the laundry and push the laundry basket to the door. He helps me make the bed. He throws things in the trash, helps me pick up his toys, and if I say, "Take this to Daddy," he will run and do it. Today, we were moving a big stack of books from the hallway into our bedroom. When Rusty told him he could help us, he got so excited. He made several trips back and forth, carrying books, and when the stack was gone, he said "More? More?"

Alex also likes to "help" in the kitchen. He is not quite old enough to start doing the dishes, but sometimes I will let him stand on a chair at the sink and play with plastic cups in the water. He also has his own cupboard that is full of nothing but Tupperware and plastic containers. His favorite thing to do is to climb inside it and throw everything out onto the floor. I'm not sure how he thinks this is helping me, but he is quite industrious about it, so obviously it is something that needs done in his mind.

Now, if only I knew how to make the "helpful" stage last forever.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I'm Baaaaack!

Well, hello, everyone. I've been MIA for awhile, but I'm back now with an update on life through my eyes. Let's see, where to begin... oh, I guess I should start with the above picture. I have a big boy haircut now. I was getting a bit tired of everyone asking if I was a boy or a girl, so I had a talk with my mommy, and she agreed it was time for my first haircut (although she was sad to see all my beautiful blond curls go).

We went to a Cookie Cutters hair salon for kids. It was totally cool! They had all these cool toys and things to climb on. When it was time to get my hair cut, I sat in a car, and the lady put in a Baby Einstein video for me to watch and gave me a sucker. So far, so good. But then she started messing with my hair, and I wasn't sure I liked that too much. And then she got the clippers out, and I let her know in no uncertain terms, that I certainly didn't like those things!

Finally, it was over. She took my picture and put a lock of my hair in a little baggie for my mommy, and gave me an official "First Haircut" certificate. But I didn't care about all that -- I just wanted another sucker. Anyhow, I'm quite pleased with the results. It definitely keeps me cooler when I'm playing outside in the hot weather, and I don't get mistaken for a little girl so much. They say, "less is more," and in this case, I would have to agree. What do you think?

I have had a really fun summer. Our road trip was a blast. I got to see and do so many cool things, and I met all these people my parents say I'm related to. Now, we are living in Memphis. I really like it here. I have my own room, finally, with space for all my books and toys. I have a great big yard to run around in, and a ginormous sand-box (my mom says it is really a sand volleyball court). I also have a new friend. She lives across the courtyard from me. Her name is Mackenzie, and she just turned three. We like to play outside together and go swimming when it is hot. Sometimes, our parents trade baby-sitting, so they can go out on a date. Speaking of baby-sitting, I have a baby-sitter now that my mom has started working. She comes and plays with me two mornings a week. Her name is Miss Rachel, and we have fun together. On Wednesday, she takes me to the library for story time.

On Monday, my mom took me to the doctor for my 18-month check-up. I now weigh 26 pounds, 2 ounces, and I am 34 inches tall. That's almost 3 feet! The doctor says I am a healthy little boy. Then, I got four shots, and I did NOT like that at all! But my mom says those are the last shots I will need until I am 5, unless we go to Africa before then. I don't think I want to go to Africa, wherever that is!

That's it for now, I guess. Oh, my mom says to tell you that she updated my "Corner." Just scroll down and you'll see it in the sidebar on the right. Lots of love to everyone! -- Alex

Friday, September 14, 2007


Any missionary kid will attest that the question, "Where do you call home?" is a difficult one to answer. Part of my heart will always think of Kenya as home because that's where I grew up. Now that my parents live in Michigan, I feel like I'm going home when I go up there. Something about walking into their house and seeing all the familiar objects that I grew up seeing every day (like the Egyptian table, the framed family picture with all our names and their meanings in frames surrounding it, even everyday objects like the stainless steel salt and pepper shakers) is just so incredibly soothing. Bear in mind that I never actually lived in their house in Livonia; but it still feels a little bit like home.

This last year, though, when I thought of home, a jumbled hodge-podge of images flashed through my mind. Images of our old three-bedroom house in Mississippi, just across the street from the church where Rusty worked blended with those of our spacious six-bedroom home in Japan (and mixed in from time to time were images of our first apartment in Mito). It's odd, but I still remember practically every detail of those two homes, like how the furniture was arranged, where this or that picture or decoration was hung, even what drawer housed my silverware or my collection of wooden animal napkin rings.

Lately, my thoughts of home are beginning to organize themselves around our new abode at 1000 Cherry Road. We have been here little more than a month, but already, I feel more at home here than I have since we left Japan. No offense to Rusty's family, or to the Onsomu's (who were like our second home while we were in Portland), but there is just no real substitute, as far as I'm concerned, for a place of my own, for being surrounded by my own things. Sitting on my own couch, eating dinner (cooked in my own pans) off my own dishes at my own table -- just ordinary activities, yes, but that first week we were here, I was practically revelling in those things!

It's just student housing here on campus, just a 2-bedroom, 1-bath, cinder-block apartment, but it feels like a palace to me! For the first time in over a year, I can say the words, "It's good to be home."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Friday, September 07, 2007


Our family has been dealing with a lot of changes lately, so I decided our blog needed a face lift to reflect this. I've added and changed a bunch of stuff in the sidebar, chosen a new template, and figured out how to add a customized header. I browsed my favorite free stock photography website for a long time, trying to decide on the kind of photo I wanted. If we were still living in Japan, I would have chosen something with an Oriental flair; if in Portland, a picture of the Cascade mountains, a waterfall, or the rugged Oregon coast would have been cool. However, there just were not that many inspiring pictures of Memphis. So, I finally settled on the above picture of a winding country road. I feel like it is somehow reflective of our lives right now. We are still on a journey. (Memphis is not our final destination.) Our path doesn't stretch out straight in front of us, but twists out of sight through the trees. (We don't know yet where we will be going after this.) And I am learning, slowly, to be content with the journey I am on -- with the winding road, with the unknown, out of sight around the bend.

Anyway... back to the "changes" in our lives.

For one thing, we have a new address! Unpacking and settling into a new home is always a slow (and therefore frustrating) process for us, but we continue to make headway a little bit at a time. Along with the new address come a whole bunch of other new things -- new bank, new doctors, new pharmacist, new driver's licenses, new plates for the car, new insurance company, new phone number (still working on some of these!), and the list goes on...

Rusty is back in school, taking 6 hours (two classes) this semester. Having not taken a class in almost two years, it has taken him some time to "get his groove back." This was made more difficult by the fact that he has also been working long hours at Starbucks, trying to get in enough hours this quarter so we can maintain our benefits eligibility. Now that the quarter is almost over, he will be able to cut back on work so he can focus more on school.

I have faced some big changes as well. I am now a "working mom." (I say that somewhat facetiously, since of course all mothers work.) But, after 18 months of being a stay-at-home mom, I have re-entered the work force. This was not a decision that was made lightly, since both Rusty and I have always been committed to being a one-income family once children came along. However, the "perfect job" was offered to me, and I accepted. No, really: if I am going to work outside the home, this is the ideal situation. I am now working for Freed-Hardeman University as the Secretary in the Memphis Graduate Education Office. My office is right here on campus (where we live), alleviating the need for a second car, and making it possible for me to come home for lunch each day. My boss is extremely flexible and fun to work with; and the work itself is something I enjoy doing. Despite all of that, adjusting to working 32+ hours a week is going to take some time.

Needless to say, Alex has also faced his own set of changes as a result of my new job. He is spending two mornings a week with a baby-sitter, and a full day plus all other afternoons with his daddy. (Luckily, he still takes a pretty long nap in the afternoon, so Rusty can get some studying done!) Being the flexible, easy-going little guy that he is, he seems to be handling all this pretty well so far. In fact, it has probably been harder on Rusty and me than it has on Alex!

And that's what's new with us. Check back next week for some new pictures (I hope).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Worth Reading

Thank you for all the comments (10) on my last post. Ten comments is a record for us (never mind the fact that I made 3 of them)! We don't have a very wide "readership" here in this little corner of cyberspace. Actually, I have a sneaking suspicion that we have quite a few readers, just not a lot of people who leave comments. We call that "lurking" here in Blog-Land. So, if you've been lurking around our site, leave a comment sometime and make yourself known. And you don't have to have a Blooger/Google account in order to do so. Just click on comments, and in the little window that pops up, type your message. Then, you have to complete a word-verification (this is to prevent "comment spam" from those morons who have nothing better to do than leave their political rantings or sales pitches in the form of comments on random blogsites). If you do not have a Blogger/Google account, make sure to click "Anonymous" or "Other" (and if you click "Anonymous," please type your name in the text of your comment so we know who you are). Then, click "Publish," and you're done!

Having said all that -- onto the real purpose of this post, which is to share a couple of links to things I have read recently and thoroughly enjoyed! Yes, I know, you are all eager for updates on our life, and I promise I am working on several posts to that end (or at least, I have them in my head). So, for now, this will have to suffice.

This first link is one of those laugh-out-loud-til-your-sides-hurt-and-the-tears-roll-down-your-cheeks kind of reads. At least it was for me. Who would have thought that an auction listing on Ebay could make me laugh so uproariously?

The second link is more thought-provoking, even bordering on academic. In the midst of all the hoopla surrounding the release of the 7th and final installment in the Harry Potter series, this Christian author and professor of English gives a thoughtful and well-organized defense of the merits and religious implications of "The Youngest Brother's Tale." Definitely worth a read, especially if you are a fan of the books. Thanks to my dad for sending me this link.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I Finished!

I finally finished "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," and let me just say, IT ROCKED!!! It exceeded all my expectations for the conclusion to a fantastic series. I can't wait to see the movie because it's going to be awesome (of course not as awesome as the book, but awesome, nonetheless)! I'm looking forward to unpacking the rest of the series because I plan to read it over again from start to finish now.

I don't want to say anymore because I don't want to spoil anything for those that haven't read the book yet, but I'm dying to know what other people thought of it! Leave a comment and share your thoughts... favorite part... the thing that surprised you most... whatever. And if you haven't read the book yet, be warned -- the comments may contain spoilers, so read them at your own risk.

Trek Across North America: Conclusion

Well, last week, after almost 4 weeks on the road, three tired travelers finally reached their destination. This road trip was a lot of fun, and a nice way to transition from our time in Portland to Memphis. Still, I have to say, it sure is nice to know we won't be packing up again for awhile!

Last Sunday, Rusty preached at the church in Livonia, and did a great job! Monday was spent packing. We had purchased a small enclosed trailer the week before to haul the furniture that my parents had been storing for us down to Memphis. I didn't think we would be able to squeeze it all in, but my husband is a master packer, and in the end, all we left behind were two chairs from our dining set. On Tuesday, we said goodbye to Mom and Dad and began our drive south. After a long day of driving, we arrived in Clarksville, Tennessee, and stayed the night with Uncle Dennis and Aunt Diana Campbell. It was really great seeing them again -- and relaxing in the hot tub!

On Wednesday, after a great breakfast at Shoney's, we headed out again and arrived in Memphis about 1:30 p.m.

And that was our trip!

26 days...

4795 miles...

2 countries...

13 states...

3 Canadian provinces...

8 different beds...

14 stops at Starbucks...

4 sermons...

2 trailers...

and 1 lost hat!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Trek Across North America: Week 3

We began our third week in Coldwater, Michigan, visiting my grandparents, Dean and Ruth Clutter. Rusty preached at the church in Coldwater on Sunday morning, and we enjoyed a delicious dinner and a good visit with my Aunt Cyndi and her family that evening.

Alex and his great-grandparents

On Monday, we drove up to Livonia to spend the rest of the week with my parents and brother. We have had such a great time! Highlights have included: a trip to Cedar Point, home to some of the world's tallest, fastest roller-coasters; celebrating Matt's 21st birthday; visiting Greenfield Village; and of course seeing all the dear folks at the Livonia church of Christ, some of whom have known me since before I was born. Pictures are below.

Riding the carousel at Cedar Point

Riding the train (again at Cedar Point)

Another kiddie ride at Cedar Point

The big 2-1!

Sharing an ice-cream with Daddy at Greenfield Village

You may notice that Alex looks a little different in the last picture. Yes, while we were in Livonia, he got his first haircut! More on that later -- but doesn't he look so grown up now? And, in between all of our fun outings and family time, I have been using practically every spare moment to devour "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." (Ronda, Robbie, and Johnny -- I am now on page 350, where are you?)

Our time here in Livonia is quickly drawing to a close. Tomorrow, we will begin the last leg of our journey to Memphis, and hope to arrive there on Wednesday afternoon. Although this trip has been fun, I am looking forward to settling into our apartment and our new life in Memphis.