Category Archives: favorites.

#firstworldproblems…

Remember when I wrote about having a tokay lizard in our house? [[If you don’t know what I’m talking about you should read this post first.]]

Well, they’re back and the other night I sent Tracy this text:

(It’s the bottom text that matters…)

textJanuary 6, 2014, 23:14:

Tokay is above my ceiling making lots of noise tonight.  I keep imagining it biting a hole in the ceiling and falling on me : (

In the morning when I was sharing about my lack of sleep the night prior and about how I just kept throwing pillows at my ceiling to try to scare the thing away, Tracy told me that I’m crazy and that it’s completely unlikely that anything would chew through my ceiling.

She’s right.

I have a highly active imagination and sometimes I let it get the best of me.

Inhale.  Exhale.

Phew.

Well…

Tonight I took this picture:

hole

What’s so special about this photo, you may be asking yourself.  What is Caleb doing?

Oh, you know…. nothing… he’s just patching up the HOLE that was EATEN THROUGH MY CEILING!!!!!!!!!!!

IT ATE A HOLE THROUGH MY CEILING!!!!!!!!!!!

THE FREAKING TOKAY ATE A HOLE THROUGH MY FREAKING CEILING!!!

BAAAAAAHHHH! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  AJADLKJ;AKDJF;KJASDLKJALKJADKL!

I’ve done a lot of jumping and yelling and freaking out this past 45 minutes.

I am not a happy camper tonight my friends. Nope. Not at all.

Where is the Tokay?

I don’t know.  Probably in my pillow case…waiting to burrow into my head full of warm hair.  It is cold season and the tokay is cold blooded.  He’s just there waiting for me to fall asleep.

But OOOOOH HO HO tokay–I’m smarter than you–I’m totally not sleeping tonight… or EVER AGAIN!!! Good luck burrowing into my hair!  GOOOO-OOOD LUCK!

Anyway, this probably doesn’t fit under that category of #firstworldproblems.  No,this is my life.  This is my life.

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Coffee Journey 2013

Last weekend the Lorensen family and I were given the pleasure of being part of Akha Ama‘s Annual Coffee Journey.

Lee, the visionary behind this Socially Empowered Enterprise, organizes an annual trip to his hometown–a very remote Akha village on the top of one of the mountains in Chiang Rai province–so that his coffee loving patrons can experience first hand the journey our coffee beans take from plant to cup.

We were given the opportunity to actually participate in the harvesting of the coffee cherries and then watch the process of de-husking, washing, drying and sorting out of the beans, after which they are sent down the mountain to be roasted, packaged and sold.

Though I’ve been working and participating in the coffee industry for the last 7 years, I have never felt so knowledgable about those little beans.

Here’s a closer look into our experiences:

1.  Getting there and back. We started the commute in the back of three song-teos and after 2 hours of we transitioned into 4 4×4 trucks.  With 42 people packed into the beds of these trucks and we started going up this mountain.

Up, up, up.  Never stopping–up.  Muddy, muddy, muddy–up. One wrong move and we’re dead–up.

photo-34

Things to notice:
1. Tracy’s truck is going sideways.
2. Sudden Death.
3. Mud.
4. Clouds.

This is real life guys.

Fortunately, against all odds, we made it to the clouds.  And the temperature dropped about 20 degrees and for the first time in my stay in Thailand, I was freezing.  Our breathe was able to be seen.  No amount of telling me, ‘It will be cold on the mountain’ could have prepared me for this.

2. Our host.  The group of 42 of us were heartily welcomed into the Akha villagers homes for the weekend, however, they did request a separation of male and female guests, meaning that the Lorensen family was separated for the weekend and I reaped the benefit of getting to be roommates with Tracy, Iris and three other ladies.

This village, being as remote as it is, doesn’t get many Western visitors, so naturally, everyone was very excited to see who was spending the weekend in their guest room.

photo-33

Things to notice:
1. The condoms that kept growing in number next to Tracy’s pillow.
2. The window that we could not shut with happy on lookers.
3. Our kind host, with her magic string to help Iris sleep nice and quietly.
4. Our pillows were made out of rocks.
5. Iris is crazy.

Between language barriers (the villagers speak Akha and only a little Thai), cultural differences and the freezing cold, all we could do was laugh.  And laugh.  And laugh.

3. Sleeping.

photo-32

Things to notice:
1. The Thai girls’ conversation about bowel movements that I was able to understand due to my advanced language ability.
2. The old man in the window.
3. The thin, thin blankets provided for the very, very cold night.
4. Carla, (ex-military,) trying to answer my sleep talking mumbles while using a mosquito net for extra warmth.

So many funny things happened as we were trying to sleep.  It was so cold.  The room we were staying in was build out of wood and attached to the main home.  I fully expected to wake up with snow surrounding me, it was that cold.  The window and the electricity were not controlled by us, which meant ‘on lookers’ and lights turning on and off at the home owners delight.

I also forgot to inform Carla that I am quite the sleep talker, so my mumbles kept her up all night as she was trying to respond to the sweet nothings I was whispering in her direction.

Never in my life had I thought freezing to death a possibility in Thailand.

I thought about it a lot that weekend.

4. Coffee drinking.  Aka, coffee rations.

photo-31

In case you can’t read it:
Lee (behind the table): “And this, my coffee loving friends, is how you make drip coffee–the pour over method! NOW…share this cup among the 42 of you! Enjoy!”
Thai girl (purple): “Wow! I’ve never seen coffee prepared so hipsterly!”
Thai girl (blue): “Yay! Coffee Rations!”
Thai man: “I’m so excited to wait 37 minutes to drink my 1/4 cup of not hot coffee!!”
Caleb: “I drink a whole pot of coffee a day. By myself…”
Samara: “I was supposed to bring a mug? Pout.”

This is probably my favorite part of the whole trip.

One must keep in mind that all the people who came on this trip are lovers of coffee and part of the excitement coming on this trip is that we get to drink lots and lots and lots of it.

Well, it was one of those expectations vs. reality situations.

Coffee was provided.  Yes.  But as we are in a remote mountain village where electricity can not be depended on, the method of preparing coffee was the one cup-pour over method.  So, cup at a time, they made us coffee and then would split the cup with four or five of us waiting patiently in the cold.

I somehow missed the memo that I was supposed to bring my own mug, so I waited for my friends to get their share and then used their cups.  By the time you were given your ration the coffee usually wasn’t hot anymore, but despite all this, everyone was super excited and happy and impressed.

While Caleb, Tracy and I were laughing over the absurdity of this situation (42 people waiting in line for their share…) everyone else was so eager and didn’t seem to think there was anything unusual about the situation.

Oh the hilarity.

***

After our morning coffee rations we went on about an hour hike further up the mountain and spent the afternoon working the coffee harvest.  The 42 of us were able to harvest the amount that one of the villagers does in a single day of work.  We were obviously very efficient.

We then hiked back down, ate dinner and got snug back into our beds.  We woke up the next morning, had our rations and hopped back into those trucks for our frightful decent back into the city and then to our warm home.  The journey is over.

Unforgettable.

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ภาษาหมา (The Language of Dogs)

I’m not exactly a huge fan of classroom observations.  Maybe this is because it’s my first year of teaching and I’m insecure in my ability to do a good job.  Perhaps I suffer from an intense desire not to disappoint; or maybe I am a little worried that the ‘controlled chaos’ of my class will not translate well to the observer.  

It doesn’t matter why, the point is–I don’t enjoy having other people in my classroom.

Regardless of my dislike of said observations I seem to have some random person in my classroom just about every other week.  Sometimes these observers come disguised as close friends, sometimes as foreign missionaries and sometimes as principles–but I see through their disguises and am usually internally dying from performance anxiety that I hide behind a big smile and bright colored clothing.

***

Meet Natalie.

Image

 

Natalie is 7 and has one big sister.  She is half Thai/half German.  Her favorite color is green, favorite animals are cats, she likes eating carrots and making art. 

When I interviewed her for this post and asked her how she is, her response was “scared.”

She is also a fan of sarcasm and hugs.

***

The Story:

Every morning at the beginning of class I teach a bit about the character of God and then lead my kids into prayer time. 

This particular morning I had a guest ‘helper’ [observer] who has been part of IHOP, has lived in Thailand for some time now, speaks Thai more fluently than I and is hoping to open up a School of Promise somewhere in the South.  I hadn’t ever met this woman before aside from friendly hello’s here and there, but welcomed her into my classroom and tried to pretend that I wasn’t nervous as all get up.

I taught whatever Bible lesson it was that day and then transitioned into prayer time. I always ask the students what they want to pray for and get a variety of answers ranging from:

God

Jesus

Miss Samara

kitties

trees

apples

and octopi.

 Ok, yep.  Yes, I will pray for all those things.

 And then, every morning I explain that Miss Samara is going to pray out loud in English, but that my students can pray in their heart, in their heads or with their words and that they can pray in English or Thai or a tribal language if they are more comfortable with that. 

Same routine, everyday.

This day, sweet Base (pictured below) asked if he could pray in Chinese.  Everyone had a good laugh about that and I told him, yes, of course.  If you speak Chinese, please pray in Chinese because God understands Chinese.

Image

Base. The cutest thing in the entire world. Seriously.

We all giggled together about Base being able to pray in Chinese and I began to start praying when Natalie raised her hand.  

 

Miss Samara: “Yes, Natalie?”

Natalie [in thai]: “Can we pray in the language of dogs?”

Miss Samara: pause. look at observer. pause. “If you understand the language of dogs, I’m sure God will understand it as well.”

 

And then I start praying.

Holy Spirit, I welcome Your presence into my classroom… random barking… pause. more barking… open my eyes. 

Natalie is sitting in her seat barking. Loudly.

I think, ok.  Play it cool.  No big deal.  Keep praying.

God, I thank you for this day, I thank you for this opportunity to… louder barking. open my eyes…  look at person observing my class… more students barking. pretend this isn’t happening… keep praying…

Um, You’re so good God… still more barking.  high pitched barking.  all the students are laughing.  Miss Samara starts laughing.  pull it together…

Well God, I’m pretty sure you understand Dog Language, so well…uh… ha… Amen.

 

I was pretty much at a loss as to how to move on from there, or how to explain to this lady that normally my students pray quietly and in human languages–so, I just pretended it didn’t happen at all.  

Prayer time was toootally normal.

High pitched barking? What?

Lets learn the alphabet. Big Smile.

***

Until the end of the first term dog language was brought up every class as a possibility when talking to God and for at least a good month Natalie barked the entire time I prayed.  Honestly, I don’t know why she stopped as I never squelched her freedom of expression.

But there you have it. 

Just another day in Miss Samara’s English class. With an observer.

 

 

 

 

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#bestteacherever

meet Folk.

folk

I interviewed him briefly for this post.

Folk is 6 years old and has one big brother.

When asked how he was, his response was, “hungry.”  {not joking.}

English is his favorite subject, red is his favorite color and rice is his favorite food.

meet Silence Sprinkles.

IMG_1251

Silence Sprinkles was a genius idea that I stole from this genius teacher.

They’re a magical concoction made of glitter and dry rice used to help students remember to not talk while Miss Samara is talking.

***

the Story:

***

At the School of Promise we have a disciplinary system based off of colors.  Every student starts with green clip at the beginning of the day.  If the student performs well through out the day they are given a blue clip.  On the other hand, if the student needs some reminders to behave they are given a yellow as a warning, followed by a red which results in a detention.  Pretty standard.

Maybe I’m just a big softy.  But, for the first part of the school year I was really conflicted about this system.  I felt like my kids were too young and too inexperienced in the English language to do anything deserving a detention.

The problem that I was running into was there is nowhere to go after giving a student a yellow, aside to the dreaded red.

I wasn’t having huge disciplinary issues really…just the normal things: talking, talking, talking and the occasional wrestling match during art and/or PE, but, again, nothing warranting a red.

This is where the Silence Sprinkles enter my classroom.

I was very excited about these.

I explained to my class that if a student was having a hard time remembering to be quiet while Miss Samara is teaching that I would put a spoonful of Silence Sprinkles on their head and the Sprinkles would magically help them remember to be quiet.  If the Sprinkles couldn’t get the job done the student would then get a yellow.

In essence these Sprinkles were to be a warning before the warning.

Again, I was very excited about these Sprinkles.

My class, in general, is full of very well behaved children.  I was actually quite disappointed the day I introduced the Silence Sprinkles because my children were so on task.

That is, until Folk decided to start up a passionate conversation with the student behind him.

Perfect!

I got the container of Silence Sprinkles and explained that Folk needed a little help remembering to be quiet.  {I wish you could have seen the excitement on my face…}  I opened the jar, took a spoonful out and ever so delicately poured the spoonful on Folk’s head.

To my complete astonishment Folk began to weep.

Tears streaming down his chubby face and eyes filled with a mixture of fear and shame he looked at his teacher for comfort.  Unfortunately, Miss Samara could not be of any comfort to him…as she couldn’t stop laughing.

I’m serious.

I just laughed at him.  and laughed.  and laughed.

The rest of the class was silent.

I was finally able to pull myself together and brought Folk out of the classroom.  I explained to him that I was not mad at him and tried to lull his tears.  As my comfort was no longer able to be received, I told him to go wash his face and come back to the class when he was ready.

***

I later talked to my co-teacher about the situation and had her explain the Silence Sprinkles to Folk and the rest of the class.  She was able to talk to Folk (as her Thai is obviously much more advanced…dang native speakers…) and told me that Folk thought the Sprinkles were a sort of black magic and was scared of what they would do to him.

So there you have it.

My students are scared that I am using black magic in the classroom to keep them quiet.

and I just laugh uncontrollably at them while they’re having emotional breakdowns.

#bestteacherever

***

Since this, my co-teacher has regularly used the Silence Sprinkles (along with some of my other ‘first grade ideas’) and the students are no longer terrified by their magical powers.

Folk has also proven to be a very… emotional child and cries regularly.

So… I actually don’t feel bad for laughing at him at all.

xo

***

the word magic was never used when I explained the Silence Sprinkles to the students… only that they would help the student to remember.  😉

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woodland creatures and other warm fuzzies

I love living in Thailand.  And quite honestly, there’s not much that seems all that ‘weird’ or ‘different’ to me at this point.  Adaptability is a prized strength of mine and I do my best to take full advantage of it.

But, every once in a while I have a, “I don’t live in America anymore” moment.

Rainy season has been filled with a series of those such moments.

I’ve never lived through a rainy season before; they definitely have their perks.

For one, the hot, hot heat of Thailand has really cooled itself down.  It’s now raining pretty much every night, which has led to wonderful sleep and fan-less night and consistent running water in our house, and well…

ok, it’s mostly just the cooling effect the rain has that I love.  But, I love it oh so much.

But, with the perks, there are also the downsides:

-drying laundry has become rather…difficult

-I hardly ever want to get out of bed when it’s time to go to school in the morning due to the rain

-motorbike riding in the rain is not my favorite thing

-and then there’s my afro-puff.

But, it’s neither of those that I want to talk about today.  No, no.  The biggest ‘downside’ of rainy season has most definitely been the woodland creatures that have taken refuge in our house.

Now, I say, woodland creatures, and one may picture something like this:

Image

Those, however, are not the woodland creatures that I am speaking about–no deers or squirrels here.  Nope.  By woodland creatures I mean bugs.

bugs.bugs.bugs.bugs.bugs.

bugs everywhere bugs.

For example:

The amount of mosquito bites currently on my body is record breaking.

I opened my laptop the other day and out crawls… a cockroach.  Tracy gets in the shower, and over her foot crawls… a cockroach.  I move my fan to the other room, out from underneath crawls… a cockroach.

Ooorr…

my personal favorite

the flying termites that invade any and every night after a rain:

Image     Image

this is real life.

they get into our house and I do this:

Image

I don’t mean to–but, I cower in fear because of these nasty, flying bugs.  I have this (maybe irrational) fear of them getting stuck in my hair and never being able to get them out again.

This fear causes me to look a little more like the Arab part of my family…

Then, there’s the woodman spiders.  Nasty ‘ole things.

Image

These delightful things are found at the most wonderful times… like, coming out of the sink drain while brushing your teeth, on the bottom on the bottle of water that you just picked up, or just hanging out on the wall…you know whatever.

And it really doesn’t matter how ‘harmless’ I know they are and how they eat all the fore mentioned bugs that I hate so much and how they don’t want to eat mmeeeee, but I can’t keep my mind from going here:

spider4

SPIDER9

(spider pictures from here)

But, oh… the woodland creatures inside our home don’t quite end here.

The newest addition to our home–a Tokay.

We’ve had a family of them living outside of our front door for sometime now, but as mating season has ended and their offspring are ‘grown’ now, the male and female have parted ways and one of them took up residence on the inside of our house.

tokay2 tokaytokay3

Wonderful.

Honestly, this one bothered me the least…

During the day time we never saw him.

At night time…I would see him (the giant thing) if I got up in the middle of the night to go the bathroom—but I would just pray and go back to bed. The amount of small geckos in our house was gradually decreasing, along with appearances from the giant spiders.   It couldn’t be thaaaaaaaaat bad. (Of course, completely disregarding the fact that these ‘geckos’ are known to be vicious…but also having no idea what to do about it…)

That all changed today as the Tokay made an appearance in daylight.

We tried to capture the whole experience on video, but it’s mostly just shaking shots of the walls with Tracy, Geshem and I screaming as Caleb is forcing the Tokay out.

I write all this to say, I don’t live in America anymore and I’m a huge pansy when it comes to bugs and (apparently) lizards and I don’t know what in the world to do about it.

Lord help me.

the end.

****UPDATE****

I just went outside to turn on the well…because, apparently our ‘always running water’ wasn’t running…and was greeted by both a Tokay and a woodsman spider.  I thought it kind of humorous…in the ironic kind of way.

Baahhhhhh!!!!

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06/08/2013 · 04:15

Breaking Bones, Facing Fears and Experiencing Freedom

I’ve never really liked to drive.  

I’m not really sure where that came from.  Maybe from traumatic learning how to drive experiences, maybe from my seven not so well working cars….maybe from my five or so fender benders… I don’t know; but I’ve never really liked to drive.  

…and I pretty much have had an intense fear of bicycles for the greater part of my life.

Basically if I could get by walking or taking public transportation (aka, a friend’s car,) I was set.

Moving to Thailand seemed like heaven to someone like me. 

The public transportation system is quite efficient, easy to understand and fairly inexpensive.  Walking is often required, but that’s no big deal in a snow-free climate. 

Most, if not all, of my western friends have some sort of transportation.  The Lorensen’s have a car, but most people drive their motorbikes.  For six whole months I was questioned about my choice to not get a motorbike.  

“They are so convenient.”

“You get places way faster and don’t have to walk miles each day.”

“Paying for gas is so much cheaper than paying for Songteows [my favorite form of public transportation here] multiple times a day.”

But I stood my ground.  I was going to be a Songteow-ing lady as long as I lived in Thailand.  In fact, I went as far as to let God know that I was not going to learn how to drive a motorbike…

About four months into living in Thailand, my walking and songteow-ing going strong, I decided that a bicycle would be a good investment.  Yes, I had some fears to face in regards to riding that thing on the (left side of the) street, but I figured, this would be a good form of exercise for me and would save me a couple minutes every morning. 

So I purchased my bike.  I was pretty terrified at first, but within a couple weeks, I was a pro.  [I even experienced my first flat tire without freaking out.]  

By this time, people’s complaints about my inability to get around easily where beginning to annoy, but I was standing firm in my decision to not learn how to ride a motorbike.  

My prayer changed a little bit though.  Instead of just telling God that I wouldn’t….I prayed:

“God, if you really want me to learn how to ride a motorbike.  Someone is going to have to straight up give me one.  I will not buy a motorbike.”

 

Two months later one of my friend’s moved back to America.  

She left me her motorbike. 

Crap.

 

Sometimes I have to laugh at God’s sense of humor.  He gave me a motorbike.  I guess now it was my responsibility to learn how to ride it. 

It was incredible to me how much fear I had of that thing. 

I like to think of myself as a pretty adventurous person.  Things don’t scare me (unless we’re talking about spiders, praying mantises or any other flying insect,) I like to do the scary things.

Riding this motorbike FREAKED me out.  I was crippled.  As Caleb would say, my fear was driving me to do unnatural things.

So the motorbike sat in our driveway.

After about two months I decided I would start driving…little by little.  Seriously, little by little.  I would have to constantly remind myself to breathe and keep my eyes open during these learning sessions…

 

And then, I broke my toes.

I am not one to believe that God causes sickness or injury in order to teach us things.  I do, however, believe that God makes all things good.

I was pretty pitiful with those broken toes.  I couldn’t walk for a good while and had to hobble with my crutches… but despite the pit of the despair I was letting myself be in, life had to go on. 

I had to go to language school everyday and I could no longer walk the mile or so that was required to get there, let alone climb into and out of a songteow.  It just wasn’t possible.  

had to drive that motorbike.  And I had to drive it with my crutches.

So drive it I did.  

And I was terrified.  

So I prayed.  and prayed and prayed.  And arrived safely to my destination.  Time after time after time.   

I was forced to face this fear.

 

It’s been about two months now and getting on the motorbike is no longer a source of fear for me.  I’m still not the best at parking, (though, that was never my strong suit in the States with my cars…) backing out or making left turns, but, I’m getting better everyday. 

Image

This is me with my awesome ride. As a motorbike, it is pretty much equivalent to any of the cars I’ve ever had. But, it has a warm place in my heart.

The incredible amount of freedom I feel when driving that bike is beautiful.  Not only the freedom to get around quickly and efficiently without long walks, but also the freedom from fear.

 

The whole experience seemed pretty prophetic to me.  It took my getting ‘broken’, for me to face my fears.  And it took facing my fears in order for me to experience this freedom.

It makes me question what other hidden fears are paralyzing me?  What other things am I refusing to walk into…. What other areas of my life am I saying ‘no’ to God in?

My toes are pretty much 100% at this point.  And some days I miss my walks and rides in the Songteows, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be going back to my old ways anytime soon…

…I’ve tasted freedom, and I like it!

 

Image

Oh, also, my helmet makes me look like Strong Bad from Homestar Runner.
(www.homestarrunner.com)

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adventures in living.

Today begins my life as a blogger.

The last blog was just a prologue.

A lot has happened in my life over the past couple of days.

-I stayed the night in some of the most beautiful tree houses I’ve ever seen

-I’ve finally faced my fear of the motorbike and have started driving it!  On the big streets and everything!

-I made some new friends while I was stranded (or abandoned…) on the side of a mountain because my friend’s motorbike got a flat tire and she didn’t want me on it any longer.  [I just kind of sat there on the side of the road until I saw the kiddos.]

-My bedroom fan went berserk while I was sleeping and shot all of it’s blades off.  [I’m serious.]

-The shower head in my bathroom was taking notes from my fan and also exploded while I was showering.

-And I fell of a rock and broke two of my toes.

Ha.

It’s been an eventful couple of days to say the least.

I’ve never broken anything before.  And I definitely didn’t want to believe that I actually broke my toes, but after trying to ‘walk’ and ‘sleep it off’ to no avail, I decided I needed to go to the hospital.

Three x-rays later it was confirmed.  I have my first broken bones.  Ouch.

They put me through a little physical therapy session and taught me how to use my new crutches, gave me a bunch of medicine and sent me on my way.

I’m doing ok.  I really hate using the crutches and never realized how much I take my mobility for granted, so I find myself trying to walk way more often than I probably should be.  But, when I actually take things easy the pain is pretty minimal.

photo-4

hello there swollen little foot. oh, why yes, I did leave my crutches very far away. we’ll deal with that when the time comes.

I have found that there are two options for me in this time.

option a: mope, be depressed, feel sorry for myself, etc. etc. etc. assuming that my misery will soon bring relief.

or

option b: enjoy this mandatory rest, be full of thankfulness, have faith for a miracle each day, and look for Jesus in this situation.

Now is a point where I could write a mini sermon about why option b is the option for me, buuuut that would be kind of deceptive as I’ve found myself sulking in option a more often than not.

I have caught my thought patterns going down dark, scary paths full of pity parties and depression and have had to force myself to combat them.

But, I can tell you, with complete honesty, when I choose option b, when I choose to worship and be thankful–joy soon follows.

This situation could be so much worse.  I mean, what if I would have fallen out of the tree house instead of just off a rock!  I could have broken my whole body.

So thank you Jesus!  Thank you for the care that has been given me, thank you that toe bones heal easily,  Thank you for protecting me from a more serious injury.  Thank you for the people you’ve surrounded me with, who love and pray for me.  Thank you for helping me face my fears of the motorbike so that I can still get to school!  Thank you for great hospitals in Thailand!  Thank you for working a miracle in my foot.

I haven’t experienced the miracle yet, but it’s coming.

I can feel it!

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