The Carolinas

Well, less than a month until our French departure!  More on that process later.  Eric and I were asked to come and speak at an orientation for the newest group of Post Residents (the program sponsored by Samaritan's Purse that sent us to Tenwek for 2 years) last week.  There are 15 new families heading out to the field sometime between now and January.  Some to Tenwek, some to other parts of Kenya, some to Honduras and Nepal and others.  It was a fantastic chance for us to "give back" and share some of the wisdom we learned over the past several years.  It was also great to get back to SP headquarters, in Boone NC, and say hi to all the good folks there who helped us along the way.  We hope to continue with a great relationship with SP in the years to come.

As part of this trip to Boone, Eric and I decided to extend our time by a few days, since his parents volunteered to watch the kids.  We took a total of 3 1/2 days to relax a bit.  One of the things we were encouraged to do at MTI (in Colorado) was to take a "boat" time.  It used to be that missionaries, upon their departure from the US, had 4-6 weeks in a boat before they would arrive in their new culture.  That time could be used to process goodbyes, recognize changes, recover from the frantic packing and activities, and transition to the new time zone and climate.  Now, you get on a plane and step off 24 hrs later, totally exhausted.  We decided this could be a little mini-boat for us, to process things and relax at the same time.

So, we were able to relax a bit in Boone (and see the new Batman movie, awesome).  Then we headed down for one night at a Bed and Breakfast in South Carolina, Eric's 49th state.  Along the way, we took some time to do some hiking at a beautiful gorge with multiple waterfalls.

After a refreshing lunch of malts and burgers at a 50s style cafe with an awesome name (Moondoggy's), we continued to to the Red Horse Inn, just north of Greenville.  It was beautiful, with our own balcony overlooking the mountains.

 The next day we took the scenic route back to Nashville, stopping at a beautiful overlook called Caesar's Head, as well as Pisquah National Forest.  

The following pictures show that Kenyan signs have nothing on rural America. :)  We bought some peaches and pottery, and then headed home.  There was certainly a lot of time to reflect and process this year.  More on that to come.


Reunion, Part II

Back to the reunion.  Several other fun activities...one was Christmas in July.  Instead of exchanging gifts this year, we all brought a white elephant gift and played "robber bingo", where you can choose a gift or steal someone else's gift when you get a Bingo.
 Poor Rachel, my new sister in law to be.  She probably opened and lost about 5 or 6 gifts (many of which she needed this knife to open).  I guess she doesn't look too sad about it.
 One of the gifts was a gingerbread man kit.  Some older cousins got their hands on it and decided to be creative....
 Fortunately, there were real cookies to enjoy as well, courtesy of master cookie decorator Joyce (my mom's cousin).
 Then it was off to a nice lodge for a shower for Rachel.  She and Josiah will be getting married this December, yay!  Three sisters:
 More sisters (Angie and Debbie)
 Joan and her new daughters (Heather and Rachel)
 We gave Rachel gifts and advice, with hopefully a bit of humor.
 Back at "the ranch," Maggie always found plenty of people to read to her.  Ben wanted in on the action too, and Aunt Haidee happily obliged.  They were in heaven. :)
 Family skit night.  The Rimbos read a story about the mixed up states.
 Eric and Josiah played a goofy Japanese game show.
 Liane and kids tried to stuff 2 ping pong balls into their mouths at the same time (it didn't work).
 The Zillingers played "yankee doodle dandy" as Greg bopped each one on the head (it was sort of in tune).
 And as a finale, Uncle Bob reprised his role as a woman (this year, Lady Liberty).  It seems to be a recurring theme.
 Finally, time to say goodbye.  We took some family photos on the deck.
 Ben and godfather Josiah.
 Sara and cutie-pie Zoe.
 And the new generation of inlaws.
Miss everyone already, and can't wait for the next one (whenever it may be).


Reunion, Part I

While Eric was bettering himself by learning about tropical diseases, the kids and I headed out last week to Denver.  Every 2-3 yrs my mom's side of the family has a reunion.  It is awesome.  Games, food, music, laughter, lots of conversation.  This year's reunion was outside of Estes Park.  We wish Eric had been able to come, but it was sooo wonderful to see all my family.  AND, best of all, Maggie actually knew just about everyone because we've spent the entire year visiting all of them. :)

The first day, we took a little hike in Rocky Mnt Natl Park to a waterfall...about 0.3 miles and it was plenty for my kids!  A beautiful destination and a nice shady trail.
Maggie and her second cousins, Ella and Keira

Maggie and Ella, hiking along

Ben and Aunt Heather.  Ben walked more than Mags. :)

Relaxing by the waterfall

Ben and his adoring cousins

The only complaint I had about our accommodations was that there were no bathtubs in the rooms, just showers.  We gave Mags and Ben a sponge bath every night in the sink.  Here, Ben decided to try to soap...

 Activities involved the above mentioned hike, Family Christmas, and medallion hunt for three different ages. The little kids were really just hunting a box of treasure.  Maggie started strong...
 ...but got sidetracked along the way by some horses.  She and Ben refused to be moved...
 ...but later enjoyed the spoils of the treasure hunt anyways.  See tiara and candy necklace.

We enjoyed hearing musical selections from my uncles.

It was great to have a number of kids in the same age category as my kids.  Ben and my cousin's daughter, Zoe, are only a month apart.  They had fun sitting, chattering, wandering around, and...
 ...playing the piano together.  A few more years and they will be the ones doing the duets.

More to come!  Such a fun time.


A Very Old Thesis

I'm taking four weeks of Tropical Medicine here in Baltimore, and last week was "Vector-Borne Illnesses in the Tropics" or "Disease You Get From Bugs".  We had a lecture on Lyme Disease, which, as you know, is transmitted by ticks.  It's not a tropical disease, so I didn't think it should have been in the syllabus, but a rather odd thing happened during the lecture.

During the course, one of the "students", an Infectious Disease Doc from Mississippi, asked about STARI or Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness.  The expert (who was quite a good lecturer, actually) said that the problem with STARI is that only one person had every isolated a Lyme-like bacteria from that kind of tick, a species called Borrelia lonestari, and no one had every been able to replicate that isolation.  Thus, most people thought that those southern ticks (a species called the lone star tick) caused a rash, but did not transmit bacterial infection.

Well, that was where I got quite excited.

And, if you don't know the rest of the story, you may be incredulous that I could get excited at that precise point.

But others of you know that, over 10 years ago, for my Honors Thesis at Belmont University, I did my one bench science project.  It was titled "The Presence of Lyme-like Bacteria in Sumner County, Tennessee".  Basically, I had heard about this new bacterium (though I thought 2 or 3 people had isolated it, even then), and went out to a Boy Scout camp outside Nashville and collected hundreds of ticks.  The methodology of that I won't go into, but suffice to say that, yes, in the process, I had a lot of ticks on me as well.

I took them back and ran a series of molecular tests on them to look for Borrelia lonestari.  And it was there.  I wrote my thesis.  I presented it a couple times.  Someone at another university offered to continue the work and maybe publish an article, but at the time, I saw that as only vain ambition, and it wasn't interesting to me.  It never occurred to me to think that anyone would find that information helpful in trying to figure out if STARI actually existed as a legit disease.  I left the results in the freezer at Belmont, and the two copies of my thesis on a shelf there.  I don't even have a copy myself.

So, after the Lyme lecture this week, I went up to the lecturer and told him that, over 10 years ago, I had isolated Borrelia lonestari.  He said, "Wow, so you were the one person?"  I said, "No.  I never published it.  I must have been the second person (thus showing that it could be replicated, that it likely did exist)."  He said, "Really?  You did?"  "Uh, yeah."

So he gave me the name of a tick-borne illness specialist in New York, and recommend that I let him know about this.  I sent him an email, and we'll see what comes of it.  I let my adviser from Belmont know, and he assured me that he still has a copy of my thesis.  I can't imagine that they still have the specimen in the freezer.

Lesson:  You never know how various strings of your life are woven.

Lesson:  Try to find out if your information or idea might be useful to someone else before you discard it.