Sunday, August 26, 2012


Wednesday night we began a new year of our church's youth movement called Revolve.

One of my favorite things about starting a new season is the energy and excitement the kids have.  It's the same buzz I feel on opening day of a blockbuster movie.

It's a sort of anticipation - hopeful for a year of change, friendships, and (whether they know it yet or not) passions ignited and an establishing or renewal of faith.  Even though it's hard for them to sit still on a night like this (most weeks, let's be honest), I believe they believe in the possibility of God doing something great in and among them.  That gets me excited, too.

Most of the young people are taller than they were two months ago and all of them are starting a new grade at school.  I make a big deal out of the height thing, since usually it means they have passed me up by a head.  Some of them I see throughout the summer, but there's something about that first meeting of the new year.

Maybe I'm just shrinking.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Julia Child's 100th birthday, Natalie Portman's wedding, the London Olympics, and my new nephew (born exactly a week ago).

So many things to talk about.

The most important of these was the debut of Samuel Christopher MacCarthy.  7lbs 8oz.  20.5 inches.

© photo credit: Ryan MacCarthy

Now that his parents, my in-laws (Ryan and Rachell), live in Chicago (only seven hours from Medina), the plan was for me to drive out there in time for his birth.  I told everyone I knew that I was going to deliver a baby last week.  But, as babies do, Sam arrived on his own timeline: four days early.  I missed the whole thing. Thankfully, he saved some of his itty bitty sweetness for me.  I was able to meet him Thursday and stay until Saturday.

Oh, he is all kinds of cute!

While I was in town, I also visited with Rachell's husband's parents and Chris and Rachell's mom, Flora.  Flora and I shared a room, which was really lovely.  She doesn't snore like her oldest son does either.  So nice.  (I love you, babe!)

Sam has two older brothers, Quinn and Rex.  The first and second days of my visit, Quinn and I played on the backyard trampoline.  Me in my 36 year-old body, him in his Superman cape.  Guess who had more endurance (and resilience)?  Super Quinn taught me how to do a flip, and (when Auntie Amy needed a break) we laid on our backs and found shapes in the clouds.

We even caught a cricket and put it inside a plastic container, so Quinn and Rex could torture keep it as a pet.  At one point, green leaves and a long-legged spider shared residence, and no matter how many times either boy shook the container, the cricket lived through the night.  The spider preferred a prison break.

When I asked Quinn why he's so strong.  He told me it's because he eats breakfast, and knows Kung Fu.

As if time with the Holowaty-MacCarthy clan wasn't good enough, I took a little detour to St. Charles on my last day.  There I visited with my high school choir director and his wife, Jim and Kathy McCullough. Although we've exchanged Christmas cards and e-mails over the past twenty years, we haven't seen each other in person until now.  What a treat!  They both look exactly as I remember them, and were as beautiful in spirit as I remember, too.

I was proud of myself for saying Jim's name with ease.  It was a right of passage he granted us after we graduated.  Instead of "Mr. McCullough," we could start calling him by his first name, once we had our diploma in hand.  For many years, I couldn't bring myself to say, "Jim."  But when I saw him, it was perfect.

The drive both ways was easy and uneventful.

On the trip there, I took the turnpike and paid the tolls.  On the way back, I let my GPS take me along country highways and back roads. Both options were pleasant.  Somewhere in Indiana, I found a radio station playing a boy band marathon.

Guess who sang every song at the top of her lungs?

I am so blessed to have family I like spending time with.  And babies. Lots of babies.  Chris's brother's wife (in California) is due to give birth around Thanksgiving.  We'll be there visiting during that time, so I'm hoping for a second chance at delivery.

This one will be a girl.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

webster springs

As promised last December, we took a group back to West Virginia to serve the community of Webster Springs.  It made for a busy July with hubby away in Nicaragua and me leaving for this outreach only three days after his return.  I found it funny that Managua had better phone reception than where we were in West Virginia.  We were pretty remote, which made every day an adventure.    

The team was 27 members strong.  I drove the BattleKat with three passengers and a trunk strategically packed with luggage and facial supplies.  We had cars, vans, and a big trailer in tow.  To and from our destination, our caravan drove along some beautiful stretches of highway and through several hairy storms.  I found myself pressed up against my steering wheel (more than once) with the wipers on full blast, straining to see through sheets of rain.

Our lodging was in a big cabin at Camp Caesar where we shared grounds with a collection of band camps, a 4H group, and two rogue bears.  Yes, bears.  One of our teammates came very close to meeting one of them during her early morning coffee-time on the front porch.  That's one way to wake up!

We were led by a wonderful couple, Rodney & Wendy Good, who took care of all of the logistics, so each team member could focus on their area of service (what a blessing!).  We had a sports camp team for the kids, a construction team building a dormitory for volunteer groups (like ours), and our Spa Team (haircuts, nail services, and facials).  The first day and the last day were slow, but the second day was packed to the gills with families to feed, kids to play with, and clients to pamper.  I gave over 20 facials the second day, and at least as many hugs.

Gary and Lily Melton (pictured above) run the Mountain Marketplace Mission.  They serve the community through food donations, clothing, chapel services, and other resources.  They are in their 70s and have no plans of retiring any time soon.  The Mission was our hub for three days.  The facility itself is an old converted house with living quarters upstairs.  The food pantry is quaint, but loaded with goods supplied by churches, individuals, and businesses across the region.  The Meltons give what they have.  All of it.  The chapel is a room with chartreuse-colored pews, Baptist hymnals in every row, and Gaither-style music playing in stereo.

Many of the families we met in Webster Springs were without running water in their homes.  Their faces wore deep lines, their teeth were few, they spoke in southern-style accents and they walked with weary steps.  We heard countless tales of grandparents raising grandkids because their own children were in jail, and stories about generations of disease and broken homes.  What a pleasure it was to give them relief for an afternoon.  While it didn't change their living situation, we did give them a few minutes of rest.

Since we blew a fuse every time we plugged in our spa equipment, we had to be resourceful.  We ended up getting our electricity from a generator and water from a garden hose.

My two favorite clients were a gal named Karen and another named Becky.  Karen was an older woman with skin that was partially bandaged, bruised, and was literally falling off of her in some spots. The skin on her face seemed unfazed, but her arms and legs made me catch my breath.  I asked her if she had a medical condition and she said it was from over-use of medications throughout her life.  It looked terribly painful, which made my heart hurt for her.  I imagine this must be an affliction similar to what Jesus encountered in his day with the lepers and outcasts.

After I gave her a facial treatment, I knelt in front of her with cotton balls I had soaked with vitamin E oil.  I dabbed her wounds and massaged the oil in to areas of her skin that remained in tact.  I fought tears, as I told her she was beautiful, and she was loved.

Becky was my last client.  She was young and very shaky.  It took a couple of our ladies to help her in and out of my chair.  Once she was settled, I introduced myself and asked her if shaking was a medical condition or if she was nervous.  She replied, "I was born nervous."  I smiled and went through the facial as she kept shaking.  Becky didn't say a whole lot, but when she did speak it was simple and thoughtful.

Earlier that day, we had two other gals with birthdays.  When I found out, I made a big deal about it and had everyone within earshot sing them the birthday song as wildly and loudly as possible.  Towards the end of Becky's facial, she asked me about the birthdays.  I commented about our crazy singing, to which she told me her birthday was in June.  I asked her if she would like us to sing her the birthday song.  She said, "That'd be nice."  We sang just as wildly and loudly as before, and her shaking calmed to a still.  

You can hear these and other stories on our church website.  Go to the video archives and find July 29th - Youth Sunday.

What a privilege it is to do the Lord's work.  To be His hands and heart and use our creativity and skills to show His love to people in need is the best thing ever.  It doesn't take much to make someone feel special.  I hope it's a lesson I'm always learning.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

dog days

For my friends who work at schools or are in school, summer is pretty much over.  For the rest of us, these are the dog days.

One hot day after another.

Not my favorite, but for sure they have it worse in the south.  I like to think that some of the best poetry from that part of the country was written while swinging on porch swings and drinking sweet tea underneath hulking oak trees.

It seems like such a nice way to sweat against one's will.  

Thankfully, lots of things have distracted me from being uncomfortably warm.  I'm not talking about the 21 bug bites I'm currently nursing (ugh!), but I am talking about these sweet faces eating ice cream:

My sister and sister-in-laws love sending me pictures of their kids, and this auntie loves to receive them.

And who doesn't love frozen treats on a hot day?

I'm also talking about eating corn dogs and pulled pork nachos, and visiting our favorite young friends at the county fair.  They shook drinks at the lemonade stands, showed livestock in the 4H barns, performed at Medina's Got Talent, and walked around with their other young friends.  With every boy and girl I saw holding hands, I was reminded of my teenage summers in the northwest.  The music of INXS, Crowded House, Cutting Crew, Belinda Carlisle, George Michael, U2, and Swing Out Sister were all present.

Boy crushes and banana clips.

Iced Americanos with a hint of coconut are a summer staple for me and are as delicious a distraction as roasted marshmallows and watermelon, and planning a girls night out for my youth girls.  My friend, Emily (also a youth leader), hosted our most recent gathering at her parents' property.  We laughed the night away with movies, pizza, impromptu photo sessions, s'mores made over a barbecue grill (local burn ban), funny stories, and dream sequences involving guys from a certain band called One Direction.

The girls like downloading free Apps on my phone and often borrow it for that purpose.  I don't mind, though inevitably, I end up with mugs like these in my photo album:

Surprising our roommate with a trip to a friend's stables was another summer highlight.  Seeing her face light up with elation was so great.  We affectionately call Amanda, "The Animal Whisperer" because she has a special way with them.  All of them.  Amanda connected with each horse in each stall, and even got them to respond to her classic horse impersonation.

When you hear it, you'll never forget it.

Evenings spent outside, while listening to crickets and a Motown playlist, are definitely worth a mention.  Especially when they involve Italian food made by an Italian, pink sunsets, smokey campfires, moonlit rides on a John Deere Gator, and late night stories beneath a string of white lights.

Paper fans in sweaty hands
Shooing flies away
Reflections on a porch
A shelter from the scorch
When dog days came around
- Atlanta Rhythm Section

Thursday, August 2, 2012


So far as I can tell, the good things to come from sweaty summers in Ohio are: electrical storms, fireflies, farmer's markets, and fair food. Multiple trips to the frozen yogurt shop, lemonade stands, and sun-kissed faces could be squeezed on to that list as well.

And classic movies.

Over the past month, I've seen several posts by friends on Facebook about going to movies in parks, cemeteries, and backyards.  Genius idea, if you ask me.  As long as I have something cold to drink and my personal hand-held fan within reach.

Last year, hubby and I had one of our best date nights in downtown Cleveland that included dinner and a showing of 42nd Street.  I'm eager to have a do-over, as Playhouse Square is celebrating it's 15th anniversary of Cinema at the Square.  They brought back a tasty list of classics from The Godfather to Mary Poppins, Gone with the Wind, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Casablanca, and The Muppet Movie.  

I mention this because I want to go right now, and because I was pursued by one of the reps from Playhouse Square, asking if I'd give 2 vouchers away to one of my readers.  Ummm, yes please!  Who doesn't love free stuff, especially when it involves popcorn and a big screen?

A really big screen.

If you live in NE Ohio and want in on this, what I need you to do is become an official Follower of my blog (look on the right-side of this blog for current Members list and make sure you're on it), then post a comment about why you love summers in Ohio.  On Sunday, I will pick my favorite comment and you will be my winner!  The prize is 2 free vouchers (each voucher is good for up to 13 tickets and can be used in any combination: 1 ticket for each movie, 13 for 1 movie, etc.), held for you at Will Call.

Whether you win or not, you should still go.  Tickets are only $5 each or you can buy a $15 Flix Tix pass good for six films.

I'm thinking Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window will go nicely with Lemonberry frozen yogurt.  I'll be sure to eat dessert first.    

Disclosure: I was asked by Playhouse Square to help promote the 15th Annual Cinema at the Square.  In exchange, I will receive 2 Cinema at the Square vouchers for myself and 2 Cinema at the Square vouchers to give away.  All opinions are 100% my own.