Sunday, February 20, 2011

it has been some time since my last post

Hello to all,

Our internet connections have been sporadic, therefore, we have not had an update recently. 
So, I will try to put a lot into this one.

We said good-bye to Galveston and the people we met on this mission trip.  You always grow attached to those you work with.  We are looking forward to seeing how far John and Denise have gotten next year.

The weather in Dallas and Arkansas had kept us stranded in Houston for four days  AR had over a foot of snow, Dallas had snow and ice – we thought we would stay where we were until it warmed up a bit.  If we were only driving the SUV we would have ventured up, but the ‘Admiral’ RV does not do as well as a car in the ice and snow…it is a moving accident looking for a place to happen.

We visited with my nieces (the two on the right) and their families.  It was great to see them - we spent three hours in the restaurant getting caught up.  I wish they lived closer and we could see each other more often.

Cook family reunion - my brother, Butch's daughters and
their families, including baby Ty
We visited Fluor Daniel, my former employer, and found that most everyone I worked with was either sick, retired or left the company.  Roz and Shirley were out sick, Patti (my previous boss) was in meetings all day and Marilyn was working on a deadline.  We visited with her for a few minutes and went into visit Joannie who worked in the next office to me, until the new CEO came in.

Marilyn - my co-worker at Fluor Daniel
Marilyn is an excellent graphic artist
Had a lovely dinner with my friend, Sally, her husband Donny and daughter, Heather.  Sally is currently working part-time and has been running a few marathons and keeping up with Heather and her soccer team while Donny continues to put in long hours at work.

Ken, Heather, Julie & Sally
Sally & I worked at Texas Children's Hospital together and
have been friends since.

Donny, Heather & Sally Valentine

We were able to connect with a friend I worked with at Fluor and had lost contact with for twelve years, JuJu,.  We caught up on the past twelve years – she has had quite a lot happen in her life since we worked together – including being on the Judge Judy show!

Julie & JuJu - co-workers at Fluor Daniel
A surprising sight are the FEMA trailers that have appeared in the car lots.  I do not understand how they can sell them when they were to be destroyed by FEMA because of the formaldehyde in them.

FEMA trailers - condemned by FEMA
now being sold to the public

As we left on Thursday, the temperature was 28 degrees with a chill factor of 19.  It promised to be colder in Dallas and it was.

Another “word of wisdom” in the RV technology.  After it rains and you know it is going to get cold (below freezing) make sure the awnings have no rain water that has accumulated on them.  The slides have a difficult time coming in with the awning frozen with rain water on them. Fortunately, the awning was in the morning sunlight and after an hour it had thawed enough to fully retract.

We then headed to Dallas (Rockwall) where Ken’s previous secretary, Jackie and her family live.  We visited with them for the evening and head to AR.  Sarah, Jackie’s daughter, is due to have her baby in two weeks.  So preparations are being made for an additional house guest.  As of this writing, Sarah had her baby a couple of days after we left.  Jackie and Steve were thankful that it didn’t happen during the last snow storm.
My niece, Aly, called to make sure Ken and I had our flu shots (I do, Ken doesn’t).  Their two year old (Airyãnnã) was running a temperature of 105.5 and the doctor wanted to make sure anyone over 60 was aware of the dangers.  The only thing Airyãnnã had besides the temperature was an enormous appetite and very cranky.  They have put her on medicine to bring down the temperature.

We arrived in AR and had a terrific time with my niece and her husband and our great-niece and great-nephews.  We went to a beauty pageant with Airyãnnã - even though she was not feeling good, she wanted to go.  She loves to dress up.  Her brothers are troopers too and sit through the pageant.  They are so proud of their sister.  We went to a valentine’s party in both boys’ class and helped serve the ‘goodies’ and then we sent them home to their parents all with a ‘sugar high’.  Both boys (and I) wore our wild, tie-dyed shirts from Asbury's Music Camp - they love those shirts.

Airyanna getting her hair
done before the pageant

Airyanna with her
Valentine's dress in
the pageant
 Ken and I played basketball with Austin.  I was beating Austin and one of his friends was sitting watching us and said:  “Austin, your grandmother is beating you!”  Ken informed him I was his great aunt and the little boy said, “She has white hair like a grandmother”.  Anyway, I beat Austin at basketball.  Ken did too.   Ken took Airyãnnã and her puppy, Hercules, for a bike ride and came back exhausted.  Besides, pulling a small trailer behind his bike that weighed about 30 pounds and then Airyãnnã who weighed 36 pounds, pedaling up hills – he was dragging.  Ken enjoyed it.

Airyanna & Hercules

Ken bicycling/towing
Airyanna & Hercules

I surprised Aly with a scrapbook
of all her baby pictures - Michael,
her husband is looking on

Ken & Airyanna (she loves her
Uncle "Kenny")

Austin playing cards with me

Keifer wearing our Music
Camp t-shirt which he

Unhappily, we left AR and headed to the Davis Mountains where we will spend a couple of days and then visit with a friend from our church (Kathie Shappeck) in CA before we meet up with our son, Tim and his wife, Kat.

It was so desolate in the Davis Mountains/Big Bend Area.  There is actually a college here in Alpine, Sul Ross State University.   Surprising.

We stopped at the Marfa Mystery light sighting point.  It is a famous area where they cannot seem to explain mystery lights the occur occasionally.  Many theories are:  swamp gas, phosphorescent mineral displays, ball lightning, UFO’s or secret chemicals left by the US Army or even spirits of Apache ancestors.  Let your mind wander.  We did, however, see that the US Airforce in Marfa had a research stations outside the city limits.  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

We spent the day at MacDonald Observatory, one of the major astronomical research facilities in the world.  We explored the “decoding starlight” exhibits, various astronomical presentations, the solar viewing program where we viewed sunspots, flares and much more. 
We then took the guided tour where we were able to view the research telescopes up close.  I even was able to ‘move’ the 104” telescope – such power moving 11 tons of equipment with the touch of a finger.

31" mirrored telescope that we
were able to maneuver.
Our day concluded with a “Star Party” where we were able to view various stars, constellations, planets and much more not visible to naked eye through various sizes of telescopes.  Also, the space station went whizzing by.  It was quite awesome even though the moon was a full moon.

We will be leaving the Davis Mountains, TX on Sunday to head to AZ and CA and visit with Judy, Kathie & and our son and his wife.

We were driving through El Paso, TX and into NM were we encountered quite treacherous driving…dust storms and winds that could move the RV into another lane.

Temperatures when we were in the Davis Mountains were in the mid 80's.  We are in Willcox, AZ and it is in the 50's.

Stay safe and warm,
Julie & Ken

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


Hello all from the cold south,

Since we have an internet connection, this will be a lengthy update.

We began our trek to Galveston with trying to meet with Pastor Billy & Dawn Graff (who now reside in Beaumont, Tx) for lunch.  Many of you who have been reading our blog, remember Pastor Billy as our initial contact in Galveston after Hurricane Ike hit.  What a blessing he and Dawn were to us and to the community of Galveston.  But, as circumstances would have it, the Beaumont Bridge was under construction and a semi tractor trailer accident had occurred and closed down the interstate.  We were only 4 miles from meeting them and it took over an hour to get to the exit, but when they exited us it was through areas that the RV would not fit, so we had to take an alternate route and were not able to meet with Dawn and Billy.  Bummer.  

So we headed to our next location:  Galveston where we would be staying at Island Community Church where we were last year.  "1 Mission Galveston" is the last volunteer group in Galveston that has any money left for volunteers.

We spent Monday getting acclimated with 1 Mission Galveston, how they are operating and getting to know our skills.  Ken is more talented in the physical area than I am, so he was a great help to them.  They mentioned they needed help getting their office organized…they picked the right person.   By the end of Tuesday, they were organized and ready for the rush of spring breakers that were going to swarm the Island for spring break. 

We met a nice couple, Denise & John and took a tour of what needed to be done in their house.  They are originally from Tucson, AZ and bought this house, hired a contractor who came highly recommended from the previous homeowner, who ended up stealing $42,000 from them and told them he was fixing up the house and they could move into the house in October and it would be 90% completed.  When they got here, it was more like 90% unfinished and he took everything…money, fixtures, flooring, etc.  

John, Denise, Scoobie-doo and Coda
After they fired him, Denise & John left to go to the motel and that night, their house was broken into.  They feel it was the contractor since he had been casing the house and waited until they were not at home.   They could not live in the house because it was in deplorable condition, no heat, no electric, no plumbing.  A really sad story – and there is so much to be done on their house.

Ken has been helping at John and Denise’s putting in fixtures in the whole house.  Their house still has no heat (except the room they are sleeping in) so the temperature was in the 30’s working there.  Quite cold. 

Outside lights Ken installed

One day, I helped out Ken putting in electrical covers.  It took me the rest of the evening to get warm.  I went out to pick up lunch for everyone and asked Denise to come with me to get warmed up – she was appreciative and just hovered over the heater.  She was chilled to the bone.
Julie installing electrical covers with Scoobie-doo

Ken also tore down a wall in the office because it had gotten wet and mold had set in.  It was like the beginning again.

A view of the drywall that was part of the wall.

The wall after torn off
More of the wall being torn down

Ken tearing down the wall

There will be 180 volunteers coming in the end of February so we put bunks together, mopped floors and cleaned up and organized the kitchen.  It was quite funny when we looked at the bunks.  They were the same ones we used at University Baptist Church two years ago.  The same ones that came from New Orleans that the college kids sand blasted and painted.  It was no mistaking them – they left an indelible mark on the memory banks – and the box springs were those funny wild colors!

Dormitory beds from University Baptist - 2 years ago
Ken also installed a door in the dormitory room to keep the noise down from the heating unit.
While Ken was working with John and Denise, I continued working in the office filing, organizing the office, setting up files on the volunteers and composing inventory check off list for all the tools so that volunteers signed out the tools they would be using and they would be accountable for.  Tools just disappear after a volunteer group leaves the camp, so we have instituted a new system to prevent this from happening.

We thought we left PA to get out of the cold.  What a surprise we had.  On Wednesday, we woke up to 25 degrees and a chill factor of 9 degrees.  WOW!!  This is the south!!! 

They predicted snow, sleet, ice and more freezing temps.  We did get the ice on Thursday evening and Friday morning.  In fact, they closed the Galveston Causeway down at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday afternoon.  

The Causeway is the only bridge that connects the Island to the Mainland.  When they re-opened it on Friday, late morning, they were only letting one car go over at a time.

One day we served meals at StreetScape, an outreach that feeds the less fortunate and homeless.  We served rice and bean soup (left over from the previous day) and veggie soup to 41 people. All the people that came raved about the veggie soup, so Ken and I tasted it. I have never made veggie soup using spaghetti o’s as the base and adding corn and beans and rice.  Someone had donated 150 pounds of rice and we talked with the director and he said that until the rice was gone, every pot of soup would have it in it.  We met some very nice people who were grateful for the service of StreetScape…some of them broke our hearts.  One man ate his bowl of soup, fell asleep in the chair and shivered the whole time.  With temperature so low and the wind blowing fiercely, they came into the building to get warm, only to find out that StreetScape did not have any heat inside the building, which was like being outside without the wind - about 30 degrees.  So there were many refills to keep warm.

Volunteers left their mark with their t-shirts

I had made Tortilla Soup (thank you Sandra & David for the donation) for Denise and John to keep them warm.  They had decided to come over to the church to do laundry and to warm up, so fortunately we had enough for the staff to join us even though I did have to stretch the soup for 7 people (yes, Ron, I added an extra can of broth, not water).  Ham and turkey sandwiches were also added to the meal.  No one went away hungry and we had a great fellowship time.  This time is also important when working with people who have been devastated – they need to talk to someone and want someone to listen, this is so important to them and us.

We packed a lot of visiting in one day.  We met with my nieces (my brother, Butch’s daughters) and their children in Kemah for lunch.  What a pleasant lunch we had.  I sure miss them – I wish they were closer.

The "Cook" family reunion in Texas
Baby Ty, Bobby, Julie, Amanda, Jolin (Butch's daughters)
Mike, Montana, Ken
 That evening we met with Pastor Tim and Jenn Schwartz.  Tim and Jenn were part of our ‘family’ when we worked with Pastor Billy when we first came to Galveston 2 years ago.  Pastor Tim is the pastor we have been praying for who is recovering from brain cancer.  They recently added a baby girl – Emma, to their family. They were working with UMCOR Disaster Recovery until Pastor Tim had brain surgery.  Pastor Tim now pastors the Spanish church here in Galveston, part-time and stays at home with Emma while Jenn works as a physical therapist. 

Pastor Tim, Jenn & Emma Schwartz
Until next internet connection - keep warm.

Julie & Ken