Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sorry, Too Hick To Be Square doesn't live here anymore!

Oops!

You must have missed the memo: Too Hick To Be Square has moved!

Not to worry, though, we haven't gone very far. We've just switched over to our own independent website. Find us at toohicktobesquare.com and maybe even subscribe so you never miss what's happening at Too Hick To Be Square.

See you there!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Too Hick To Be Square is moving!

Breaking news: Too Hick To Be Square is moving to a new home!

I've finally decided it's time to pack my things and leave Blogspot for good—but not to worry! Too Hick isn't going very far, just to it's own independent website where the fun will continue same as before, except with more gadgets and doo-dads for me to play with.

I'm taking everything with me on the move: posts, pictures, comments, the whole shebang! In fact, I've spent the whole last month unpacking everything on the new site so it would be ready for use. There are still a few changes I'm going to have to make before I'm 100% happy with everything, but I'm proud to say that Too Hick To Be Square is now fully operational and ready for use.

So with that, let's say goodbye to Blogger and hello to toohicktobesquare.com!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Things Learned in Guatemala: How to Throw Up While Wearing A Necklace

Well, Jo and Mom made it back from their mission trip in Guatemala alive, intact (and pretty smelly to boot).
Before
After
During
Their return isn’t exactly breaking news anymore, since they’ve been back for an entire week now, but I get around to these things when I can—and that’s rarely immediately.

Since they’ve come back, we’ve been asking a lot of questions about their trip, what they did, what it was like in Guatemala, and what they thought of the experience, plus looking at all the pictures taken by the group they went with. I’ve heard plenty of stories about what they did while they were away, but before that, a little background.

In case you were wondering (because I feel I haven’t been very clear) Mom and Jo did not go all on their lonesome to Guatemala, and they certainly didn’t co-ordinate the trip details and well-drilling themselves. They’re actually just two members of a large team of volunteers that went through World Help, a global humanitarian organization that sends teams like Jo’s to different parts of the world to provide aid and relief in struggling areas. The specific trip Jo went on was also partially managed by Hope of Life, a Guatemala-based humanitarian organization focused on meeting the needs of Guatemalans.

The team Jo went with consisted of about twenty-five people. I found it interesting that twenty of these people were from a church in Pennsylvania, and then there were these five random Minnesotans tagging along. Go figure.

The Pennsylvania group had been to Guatemala before, and last year they raised money to build a church and a home for the church’s pastor in the village of Altimira. This year they came back with plans to repaint that church and build another home. On top of that there was Jo’s well-drilling project, but she was able to raise all the money for that ($15,000) by herself, something I talked about HERE.

Jo and Mom approached this trip with only a hazy idea of what they’d be doing during their weeklong stay, but they figured they’d be helping with the building projects by hauling cement blocks and doing physical labor. (Here in Minnesota we call that “grunt work.” Or maybe it’s just the Clan who says that.) Turns out they were mostly right, since they repainted the church, stacked rocks for landscaping at the home they built, and hauled wet concrete to lay the floor of the new house. There were a few hospital visits and village tours mixed in, but they still did a lot of grunting during that week.
Dedicating the new house
Unsurprisingly, this trip was a huge learning experience for Jo, from start to finish. She went from home school kid who’d never been more than one or two states away from home to a veteran fundraiser and globe-trotter…or something close to that. Along the way she learned quite a number of useful things which I thought I’d pass along to you.

For instance, Jo is now the Clan’s resident expert on how to scrape stucco off a wall without getting stung by the scorpions that get flicked out of their hidey-holes by the scraper. She’s also our resident expert on scorpion smashing—definitely a handy skill to have.
Scraping old stucco off the church
Of course, Jo being who she is, she somehow didn’t figure out how to apply paint to a wall without getting it on her shoes and in her hair, so we’re calling those off-white splatters a “souvenir.”
Another skill she picked up while she was away is how to mix concrete the Guatemalan way. They don’t have concrete mixers in the villages down there, so instead they mix the rock and water right on the ground and then haul the buckets of wet concrete to wherever they need it. Whatever is left just sits there to dry, leaving an oddly placed uneven sidewalk there on the ground.

Jo also learned to drink lots of water while in Guatemala. Staying hydrated there is a full-time occupation: between the heat and the humidity, you can get heatstroke pretty fast. Something else the Guatemalan climate does is grow gigantic grasshoppers. Think 4 inches long and you’ll be on the right track. Mom being who she is, she dared someone to eat one of them and almost had to cough up $20 before he thought better of it.

In case you were interested, it would take more than $20 to convince me to eat a grasshopper, even with chocolate.

Other things Jo learned was how to drink water out of a bag, how to hand out boxes of ice cream, and how to ride a bus for six straight hours. Again, all very valuable skills.
Unfortunately, despite all the immune boosters Jo and Mom took before and during their trip, they did end up getting sick on the last two days, so another thing Jo learned was how to go without eating for 48 hours and how to throw up while wearing a necklace—or rather, how NOT to do it.

 But surprisingly enough, out of all the things Jo learned on this trip, a better grasp of Spanish was NOT one of them. She tells me her Spanish is probably worse than it was when she left because “they talk so fast down there! I got confused.” She did get one chance to show off her language skills, though, because at the dedication of the well she had to give a speech.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Jo is not overly fond of the spotlight, and she isn’t too keen on public speaking either. Her speech caused her a lot of anxiety, but in typical Jo fashion, she figured out a way to deliver a speech and still avoid being the center of attention for more than thirty seconds. The speech she gave at the dedication was delivered in Spanish—and was exactly four words long.

Hallelujah! Gloria a Dios! (Hallelujah! Glory to God!)

It was short, sweet, and to the point—just her kind of speech. It's probably worth mentioning that this was about all the Spanish she could string together at one time.
Jo got the cut the ribbon at the well dedication
Cutting with aplomb!
Since she got back, we’ve asked Jo several times if she thinks she’ll be going back next year. At the moment her answer is “I don’t think so.” It was a great experience, one that she definitely enjoyed, but right now she’s ready to get back to her regular schedule and do things like school, chores, and washing my laundry.

Cuz that’s what sisters are for, right?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Day 5 Without Mom and Jo: Do we miss them?

Since Mom and Jo left for Guatemala, the question everyone is asking is “Do you miss them?” We get asked this by friends and neighbors, by each other, even by Mom and Jo themselves when we catch them in a video call.

The answer is, of course: Nope, not really.


Ok, maybe.


...A little...


All right, fine—YES!!

Because let’s face it. Jo’s a fairly obnoxious person most of the time, but I do miss having the annoying little squirt around 24/7. She does have her good points, after all, and it’s pretty nice to have someone else who will wash my laundry.

But while we miss Jo more than we’ll ever admit to, Mom’s absence is the one that’s gotten to us the most. Jo had her share of jobs and chores we’re having to take care of, but Mom ran EVERYTHING.

Meals. School. Errands. Gardening and weeding. Sibling disputes. Crisis control.

Everything.

We’re having to pick up the slack, and it hasn’t always been easy.

It helps a lot that Mom did plenty of planning and preparation beforehand to make some of these jobs easier. Meals, for instance, have really been simplified by having a freezer stocked with easy meals like sloppy joes and pot roasts that can be cooked up for supper with the minimum of effort. She also did the grocery shopping before she left and made sure we had plenty of fresh fruits and veggies hanging around for us to choose from so we weren’t eating out of jars the whole time. Handier yet, she even made a list of possible meal options so we don’t even have to decide what we’re going to make and if we have the stuff to make it with.
This is good, because when put under pressure, the only meal I can think of is lasagna, and only Tubby would be happy if we ate lasagna all week long.

Mom’s list makes menu planning simple. We sit down to plan the next day every evening, and when it comes to meals, we pick a few things off the list and write them down on the greaseboard.
After that, the only tricky part is remembering to pull things out of the freezer to thaw and getting things on the stove in time. We’re still working on that part, but we’ve shown significant improvement in just three days. Hey, when food is on the line, we get on top of things!

School is another area where we’re missing having Mom around. Most of it is done without her direct supervision normally, but she still comes through and corrects and grades everything. That job we’re trying to divvy up between us as best as can and as far as is appropriate (having Cob correct Skinny’s high school math probably isn’t the smartest), but most of it gets left for Dad and I to do when we get home from work.
Making sure chores happen as they should, when they should, and how they should is also something we’re working on. Most of the normal house chores like KP and feeding the dogs and chickens aren’t really a big deal, but getting bathrooms cleaned and bedrooms tidied is a challenge—though if I’m being honest, it’s probably not too much more challenging than it is when Mom is home. Making sure those things happen just isn’t usually my job.

We’re at Day 5 Without Mom and Jo, and I can safely say we’re doing pretty well. There have been no major disasters or catastrophes. Every crisis that has come up has been something we could handle. But although we’re managing to cope without Mom, that doesn't mean we don't miss her.

When you have a parent on call 24/7, at least through phone or text if not face-to-face, losing that contact (even for a little while) is a shock. I keep catching myself about to fire her a text with a question, and then redirecting to Dad or a sibling when I remember she’s in Guatemala. Though she hasn't been gone all that long, it's still hard coming home and not having her there to say "Hi, how was your day?"

It’s probably much harder for the little kids, because they’re used to being home all day, every day with Mom and now she’s suddenly never there. They show it in different ways (Becca is more clingy, Fuzz and Fro are more cantankerous, M is tired of being in charge and responsible), but we all miss having Mom here to talk to, ask questions of, and even wrestle on the floor if we feel like it.

And yes, we miss Jo too.

I was just talking to her though a video call this evening, and jokingly I told her I liked her a lot better through an Internet connection. The image was super pixelated, so what I could see of her was mostly a blurred image of colored squares. Turns out she’s a lot less annoying when you can’t see her sticking her tongue out and sassing off. And 3,000 miles of distance does a lot to make me remember all the things I do like about her.

Because, as much as it hurts me to say this, I’ve repeatedly noticed and been bothered by the fact that she's not there when I expected her to be. This morning she didn’t wake up to me making noise going to work. Last night she wasn’t there when M and I were lying in bed talking about this and that until way past our bedtime. She wasn’t even telling us to be quiet like usual, so we stayed up even later than usual. (And as a result, were even more tired than usual the next day. Go figure.) And I definitely noticed her absence the other day when we couldn't find some rice she had put away after Mom's grocery shopping. We tore the kitchen and pantry apart looking for it, but eventually just went and bought more because we couldn't find it.

Yup, might as well admit it. I miss that obnoxious little squirt.

Just don’t tell anyone, OK?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Here's What Others Have Been Saying About Jo

When Jo signed up to go to Guatemala, I don't think she realized just exactly what she was getting herself into. To be more specific, when she decided to raise $19,000 to drill a well for the village, I don't think she realized how much work it would be to raise that much money.

Thank goodness she had plenty of people to help her out along the way. Every part of the fundraiser was a new experience for Jo, and she ran into a lot of challenges along the way. While she's not the shy, retiring type, Jo's also not a social butterfly and there were many parts to this fundraiser that pushed her way out of her comfort zone.

When they first started, Mom and Jo had no idea where the fundraiser was going to go, or even how to run one. But not knowing what she's doing has never stopped Mom and she reached out to various people she knows who have done these kinds of things, got some tips and ideas, and was put in touch with other influential people who were able to help spread the news of the fundraiser even further.

And Jo, as the center of the whole operation, got to be involved in every single part of it. Guess who wrote the fundraising letters that got mailed to everyone in Mom's address book? Jo.

Guess who went door to door in town and solicited donations from businesses there? Jo (although she had help from Mom on that one).

And guess who got to be in the spotlight when the local news groups came knocking and asking for interviews?

You guessed it: dear old Jo.
Let's just say that in the past few months, Jo has gotten much better at talking to people about her trip and smiling for pictures.
Big smile, Jo!
One of the first things Jo did, after writing her fundraiser letters, was to write a news release about her plans to drill a well and send it out to most of the TV stations, newspapers, and radio stations in our area. We hoped we would get a couple responses that would help us expand our audience and reach a wider audience. What we got was more than we expected though–and probably a little more than Jo was prepared for. Since the news release went out, she's done five interviews, been on TV at least three times, and even on the radio.

I confess to feeling just a little outmatched by my little sister sometimes.

Here are some of the links to the stories on Jo and her well fundraiser. First, KIMT news aired a piece on the project and put a video out on their website HERE. KTTC also aired a story, but they've only kept a short write-up on Jo and the silent auction we did on their website, which you can see HERE. The Spring Vally Tribune did an article on Jo's fundraiser and upcoming trip in late March which you can see HERE. Shortly after that the Rochester Post-Bulletin published a piece which can be found HERE. There was also a last-minute radio interview that was scheduled about twelve hours in advance. Definitely interrupted our day a little when Mom and Jo had to run out in a hurry, but no one really cared.

With five interviews under her belt, I would say Jo's pretty much a veteran at this business now, but it hasn't been something she's enjoyed immensely. Like I said, she's not a social butterfly and being in the spotlight so much and in front of so many people made her very uncomfortable. There were a couple times when she almost decided to live under a rock for the rest of her life and never see anyone ever again. But she stuck it out, did the interviews, talked to people, and did her bit for the fundraiser. And although I can barely believe I'm saying this...she did a really fantastic job.
Because work kept me out of the house and busy when big things were happening, I was only tangentially involved in the whole fundraiser campaign, but I still had ringside seats for a lot of exciting things. I was (unfortunately) unable to be present for any of her interviews, but I did get to watch Jo write addresses on literally hundreds of envelopes, master the art of licking envelopes, and wear her fingers out sticking on stamps.

If that's not thrilling, I don't know what is.

I also got to watch her run around getting ready for the silent auction, crunching numbers with Mom to figure out how many dollars they had left to raise, and generally just freaking out about the whole thing.
 After a couple months of this, Jo felt the spotlight had been on her long enough. Actually, after just a few days of it, Jo was saying "I'm pretty sure I didn't sign up for all this!" and Mom and Dad were saying "We're pretty sure you did." She stuck it out, but she was thrilled when all the fundraiser business was over with and the well was paid for. Then all she had to worry about was boarding the plane for Guatemala–her first flight and her first time outside the USA.

She's still trying to forget that people are going to want to come back for post-trip interviews to talk about how things went in Guatemala. As far as she's concerned, her five minutes of fame are up and she's ready to go back to being an obscure home school kid who doesn't have her name in every paper in the area. Eventually someone will probably have to tell her "this is just part of being a celebrity" and to get used to it. That's not my job, though. I'll just keep on doing my blogging thing and let her figure it out for herself.

That's what big sisters are for, after all.