Thursday, June 28, 2007

Our Marvelous Mission Adventure Part I - Europe or Bust!

I can't believe I am home again. I just returned from a life-changing couple of weeks in Tirana, Albania. I originally intended to blog from there but we were so busy that what little time I had to myself, I had to spend doing laundry, preparing for the next day, and sleeping. So, I will be transferring some things from my journal in hopes to take my readers through a tour of my first official mission trip.

It began on June 10 at 5:30 in the morning. We met at the church to load up then left for Atlanta at 6:00. I learned a great lesson about getting men to stop to let women use the restroom. Let them know about an hour before you need to stop!!!

It was a mad dash to the restroom for many of us. Some of us (namely, me) were thankful that we brought an extra pair of clothes on the bus! Fortunately, I didn't have to use them...but for awhile I thought I was going to!

Airplane WingWe played games, sang, napped, listened to music and had a great time going to Atlanta. It was about 7 hours of road/stopping time before reaching the airport. We had time to kill so we had dinner before boarding the plane at 5:30 and taking off at 6:00 to head for Europe.

The plane was awesome! It was huge! It was a 7 hour flight to London. We were served an excellent dinner and had some time for a movie before we had to dim the lights for sleep.

There was a six hour time change. So, my body thought it was 1 a.m. when we arrived at 7:00 a.m. I caught somewhat of a decent nap on the plane so I was able to keep up pretty good in London. We had 4 hours between flights so that left us about 2 hours to run around London and that we did! We ran from place to place. We got to see lots of things like the London Bridge, Parliament, Big Ben, and St. Paul's Cathedral (from the outside). We snapped a few quick pictures before heading back to the airport.

Katie and Kids at London Bridge

I couldn't believe that I got to set foot in London England! A year ago, I wouldn't have believed that I would be in London on this day in June! I got to see the famous "Mind the Gap" signs along the railway. I got to ride a double decker bus on the left side of the road! I was there! Wow!

At 12:00 we were off for the last part of our journey to Albania. That is part two of this marvelous mission adventure!

Currently I'm working on photo editing. I'll be adding pictures soon!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Driving in Albania = White Knuckles!

No lanes painted on the road surface. Drivers just make up the rules as the go along I guess. Bicycles weave in and out of traffic and pedestrians walk across the road seemingly not even paying attention to the cars and trucks on the road. Horns honk consistently as drivers just signal to let you know they are there.

Interestingly enough, it is said that the ratio in Albania is less accidents than in the USA.

I heard that may be due to the fact that you are imprisoned if you are involved in an accident that causes injury to someone else. Now, that's a consequence.

Well, these are videos taken by Katrina during her Albanian mission. She said it was the scariest part of the whole adventure!

This one below is of a traffic jam and in it you'll see Mary freaking out! It's every car, truck and bus for himself!

Hazards of Missionary Work

Justin's Blisters
Originally uploaded by susanlprince
It's all about sacrifice. These are blisters that Katie's kid, Justin, got from a poisonous plant in Albania. He said it was pretty painful, but opted to have the blisters lanced and properly dressed in order to continue his work in the field with Albanian youth. Katie will be posting some of her experiences on the mission trip soon...I HOPE, because she has some great stories to tell about her visits to Albanian prisons!

To see more pics, click the picture to go to the Albania Mission Pictures as posted on Flickr.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

99 Balloons

This is one of those videos one just has to pass along. Get a box of Puffs.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Thanks to Skype, I was able to connect with Katie who is currently in Albania on a mission trip. The fact that she is 6 hours ahead of my time makes it difficult to meet online, but with some planning it's possible. The Internet is sooooo cool! The fact that I can talk to someone on the other side of the planet bloggles my mind! (Skype Name: Sue = susanlprince and Katie = beauty4ashes613)

She said that she was able to share some testimony in a prison this week and that God made Himself known to many women there who have never heard of Jesus. Many of the women listening to Katie share about having lived in abuse, and then about how God heals and loves, were moved to tears and crowded around Katie at the end asking for her to pray for them and wrote down family members to be prayed for too. It was very impactful for all there it seems.

She also describes some very interesting and DANGEROUS driving conditions with few rules of the road, crowded streets and 90 degree curves around cliffs! Funny thing is when I checked out Albania on Google Maps/Earth, the first thing I noted was the congested traffic...Katie says that is nothing! "It's like playing Frogger everytime you try to cross the street. Horns never stop honking!"

She told me I would die there because I'd starve. I'm such a picky eater that there would be NOTHING there for me to eat. I figure I could survive without food for a few weeks, but it doesn't matter, I have NO DESIRE WHATSOEVER AT ALL to go to Albania, or anywhere outside the country really...except maybe Iceland.

Albanians love American's and are still all hyped up about President Bush's recent visit which happened to be the day before the "Go Team", our mission team, arrived. Katie told me that the Albanian's are very hospitable and like to give gifts...where we might greet people with a handshake or a hug, they give gifts. Albania is a poor country, and Katie and her kids are learning that being poor in America, is not really poor at all. So, the fact that Albanian's like to give gifts, when they have so little, says a lot about the hearts of the people there. (The above picture was snagged from Bagel Belly Blog, and Katie has taken hundreds of pics of the mission, so those will be forthcoming.)

She said America could learn a lot from the people of Albania.

I'm hoping Albania can learn about Jesus from the Christians that descend on that country to share the Good News!

You can read updates about the "Go Team's" mission in Albania at

Monday, June 11, 2007

Home, Without Gram

I didn't post much about being home the weekend before this just past because I wanted some time to think and reflect on the myriad of thoughts that jumbled in my brain, and the feelings that tangled in my heart.

This was my first visit home after Gram's death. As I pulled up in the drive I was so excited to be home and couldn't wait to hug my mom and dad! At the same time, I felt awkward knowing that Gram would not be sitting at her place at the kitchen table playing solitaire or working a word puzzle in the paper, nor would she be relaxing with a book while watching tv in the living room. I was somewhat apprehensive about going on in for fear of how strange that would be, but, my excitement persuaded me without much effort and I hurried to the door.Mom and Dad

Mom greeted me at the door as soon as I arrived and it felt so good to get a hug from her! Next was dad! I'm home! Yay!

There is nothing like getting that warm hug from parent's that love you! I am so blessed!

After spending some time chatting, Mom prepared dinner a bit early because I made good time and arrived ahead of schedule, (plus...I left REALLY early in the morning because I was too excited and wanted to get home!)

After dinner I went to my jeep to get my stuff. Then came the dreaded question that I just knew mom would ask, "Do you want to sleep in Gram's room?"

I had expected this question and the dilemma of answering. So many thoughts were racing; it's GRAM's room (not mine). It would only makes sense so nobody has to drag out the foldup bed, it's a lot easier for me to sleep there. I can't, nooooo, that is Gram's room. Are you crazy, there was a dead body in there! Right on the bed I will be sleeping on! It is already so weird because Gram not being here is so noticeable to me, how can I sleep in HER room, on HER bed.

I must have cringed because Ma noticed my discomfort at this question and said "you don't have to."

Well, I got my luggage and things and walked down the hall and turned left at the end, and into Gram's room. My heart sunk. I could feel emptiness. From the inside out.

I can't believe Gram is gone.

And it's amazing how life just goes on.

It goes on like it doesn't even care.

Sun comes up. Sun goes down. Birds chirp, nest and eat worms. Indian's game plays on tv. Neighbors mow their lawns. Kids ride their bikes down the sidewalk. The clock chimes on the hour. It feels like it's not fair. It's not fair. Gram's NOT HERE!

Oh, so many thoughts crashing!

I don't know if it was intentional or not, but I ended up alone in Gram's room. Ma was there to start and shared how she has cleaned out a lot of stuff, which left a lot of room for my things while I stayed that weekend. Then, she left the room, and I found myself alone.

I stood there and looked around.

It was so strange. I don't think I had ever been in Gram's room before. There was that jewelry box thing on her dresser. It always scared me when I was a child because it looks like an old house. It stands upright on the chest of drawers and is quite large to hold the many rings, necklaces, pins and other jewelry that Gram wore. The bars on some of the "windows" were broken and in the dimlit room it looked more like a haunted house. I remember being afraid when I spent the night at her house as a young kid because that "haunted house" thing always creeped me out. It doesn't scare me anymore, it just reminds me of Gram.

So, I explored some of what is housed in that jewelry box and in some other boxes around the room too. I looked around and saw some of the many books Gram read neatly displayed on the tv stand. I started to think, hey, I can do this. I can sleep here.

So, then I looked at the bed. Mom had described to me how she had found Gram's body that night she passed away, so I envisioned that scene in my mind's eye. I felt tears welling up in my eyes and quickly shook it off.

I sat down on the bed, almost defiantly. I was casting aside the fear and the "creeped out" feeling I was having. I did decide to sleep there, and I did that very night.

The first night was the worst. As I laid there in the darkness, I was still having a bunch of different thoughts, but the few that stand out were: My Gram died here. I'm sleeping where there was once a dead body...and a new thought...One moment there is a person, a soul, a soul housed in a body, a broken body, and now all that is left there is a shell. What is it about that moment a person leaves their body? I also remembered the couple of times I have seen a dead body, and, there is no person there. All I saw was an empty shell of a person I once can feel that there is no life in there. Weird. So, I was having thoughts like that and about what happens One Minute After You Die.

I didn't sleep very well that night. I was disturbed that I was now part of all the life that goes on after someone dies. Sun comes up. Sun goes down. New people move in to Gram's room, sleep on her bed, and rummage through her stuff.

Speaking of rummaging through stuff. Gram and my aunt both had awesome stamp collections of which I know nothing about! Anyone know any avid stamp collectors? or appraisers?

Mom had gone through some of Gram's things and offered me Gram's high school class ring from the "Academy of the Immaculate Conception - 1934" which is now a permanent fixture on my finger (because I can't get it off! LOL). I also have a necklace that my Gram cherished and "always wore". My sisters received some other items from the "Gram Always Wore" collection. Mom offered a lot more of Gram's stuff to me, but honestly I don't need more "stuff", and Mom is trying to get rid of "stuff". I said to Ma...."What is wrong with us, most families break apart and end up fighting over 'stuff' like this, and we can't give it away!" LOL

My family just doesn't cherish "stuff" I guess. We like nice things, who doesn't, but we'd rather cherish the people in our lives.
Gram in June
I cherish my memories of Gram. I found a picture of her that I have printed off and use as a book marker. I like the picture because it is as though Gram is looking right into my eyes, and I like to think she is possibly remembering me. She is also wearing the necklace that is now in my possession. It is actually a coin from 1928, framed, and made into a necklace. She treasured it because her father gave it to her. I treasure it because it was Gram's. It is only fitting to have a "Gram bookmarker" because Gram's head was often buried in a book.

So, being home without Gram was a new experience. She is dearly missed.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Jacob's Field

OH MAN! I HAD SO MUCH FUN AT THE INDIAN'S GAME! It was my first time ever at Jacob's Field and I was excited to check out the Indian's home. I had seen them play a few times at the old Cleveland Stadium, and had heard wonderful things about "The Jake", and couldn't wait to go there. Well, this past Saturday my sister Dawn, and her boyfriend Leroy, headed to the game. The special bonus was the rental car my sister had (she was in from Las Vegas) was upgraded by the rental car attendant just for the heck of it to a WHITE MUSTANG CONVERTIBLE! I was stylin'! Riding without the top all the way into downtown Cleveland! Woohooo!

There is something really awe inspiring about entering a stadium, it can give you that "wow" feeling, especially when it's the first time ever being there. We got into Cleveland a good hour before the first pitch, parked without much effort at all, and walked a few blocks to the field.

We had tickets up pretty high because they were the only ones left with Detroit in town...Tigers AND Piston's for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. There was anticipation in the air and I could feel the electricity. We climbed and climbed up and up and up after we entered the gates at the Jake and when we made it to our section, we walked down a short "hall" to check out the field.

It almost takes ones breath away. The backdrop of the city with The Terminal Tower on the left, the Q right across the way where the Cavs were set to play in a couple of hours, and people gathering in the courtyard just outside to watch the NBA action on the big screen. The motion and lighted activity of the giant scoreboard in centerfield immediatly grabs your attention. The green of the perfectly manicured field and Chief Wahoo greeting us everywhere we looked. The usher offered to take a pic of us with my camera and I think he did a great job! (I'm the one on the right.) Leroy's Yankee's attire earned him a few friendly jabs from Indian's fans! LOL

The Indian's didn't play like a first place team that night, but that didn't hurt the fun I was having. People were just feeling good, and there was contagious fun and excitement in the air. I only had one bad experience which I will share now.

There were a few small pop-up storms happening around the Cleveland area and at one point the wind really kicked it up a notch. We were purchasing our souvenirs and ballpark franks in the concessions area, which is on the outside of the building, and like I said, we were up high. My arms were full as I was carrying my large bag of popcorn, hotdog, and bottled water, which had no cap (for whatever reason we are not allowed caps on water bottles), in my left arm, and in my right I was holding my Dr. Pepper in my souvenir cup...with no lid, because lids aren't allowed either. Well, as I waited for Leroy to get his order, I stepped to the side. I was standing at the opening of the field, which was basically like a tunnel that goes from the concessions area to the stadium seats. The wind really picked up bigtime and I was soon standing in a wind tunnel with hurricane force winds!

Suddenly my popcorn started blowing all around like it was in the popper at the movies! It was flying everywhere, and then my new Chief Wahoo cap started to raise off the top of my head. My sister said "Sue, your cap!" and my reflex was to grab it. Unfortunately, my grabbing hand, my right hand, was holding my large cup of Dr. Pepper!

My arm shot up, and when the cup stopped, the Dr. Pepper kept shooting upward in the path of the trajectory! With the wind blowing, it blew all that Dr. Pepper all over everyone standing in line! Popcorn was still blowing dizzily all around me, now it was raining Dr. Pepper, and the people in line all screamed! They literally all screamed! One guy in line was covered in Dr. Pepper from head to toe, and he had been dressed in all white. Now he was quite spotted with cola! OOPS! All I could do is apologize. I felt so bad. At least he was pretty cool about it. I just kept apologizing. I was so embarrassed too!

At least I saved my Chief Wahoo cap! Yay!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Great Time to Be Home in Cleveland!

Woohooo! I was downtown tonight and there was a HUGE party goin' on! Go Cavs! Finally a conference champion and now going to the finals to win it all!

I'm home in Ohio visiting and my sister, her boyfriend, and I headed to The Jake to watch the Indians play. They didn't play well, definitely not like a first place team, but there was a lot of electricity in the air, because just across the street at the Q, were the Cavs. They were on fire and the city is rockin' like the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame!

Oh what fun!

I had a blast at the game! I'm having a blast being home! I'm really tired now, but I do have some stuff to share about my visit which I will in the next day or two. Good stuff.

I have an awesome family!

Go Cavs! Go Tribe!