I have been on a trip with my older son and daughter, doing build and repair projects through a program called U.M. Army for elderly and low income individuals in Hempstead, Texas, a quiet country town about 50 miles west of Houston. I was sitting here going through a week's worth of emails when suddenly I had the biggest urge for a bacon lettuce tomato sandwich. I swear, I can taste it now as I type.
I believe I ate more greasy breakfast meat than any time in recent memory ... bacon, sausage patties, chorizo sausage. I ate breakfasts that normally are reserved for factory workers and ditch diggers.
Inevitably, when I go on these youth trips, I let go of the stress and worries waiting back for me at home and get progressively sillier as the week goes on. I shared a room with 8 teenagers and one grown up lady like me. We lined up our air mattresses all across the floor. It was quite a sight. Anyways, as I get silly, I start making up songs and changing lyrics of existing songs. One night, the girls were saying, "Tammy Kay (that's what they call me) you are amazing!" I immediately began belting out, "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never let you forget you're a man...."
"OMG the 45 year old lady is really funny!"
We worked from about 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. It was so hot, they need a new word for it. I will have to boil my work site clothes to get them clean. We showered up at the local high school each afternoon. Every day, I would walk in to the gym and see the boys lined up along the hallway, doing what boys must learn to do -- waiting for the girl to finish getting ready. One day, when I walked in, there was my son, Tim. I took off my baseball cap and leaned over so he could inspect my head. "Look what I did today!" I said. He looked hard for a bump or cut or gash and then gave me a confused look. I stepped closer, "Don't you see? Look again?" Still, he was confused. I turned to another guy, an adult, "Look, don't you see it?" He looked clueless as well. By now, I had the entire hallway looking my way out of curiosity. Then I exclaimed in my best dead pan, "My brain got cooked!" Polite chuckles all around.
There was this "contest" every day to come up with the most creative safety report. Your work team was required to fill out a form reporting all potential hazards on the site and how the hazards were avoided or abated. Once I caught on that only crazy, insane safety forms won the daily "prize," I got my cooked brain going. One day, I became a walking safety form. The kids drew pictures and wrote on my t-shirt all the various hazards we saw. We even wrote some of it in Spanish for added affect. We still lost!! The next day, I hatched the idea of Work Site Jeopardy. So we bought poster board for the game board and came up with 4 different categories: Insects, Landscape, Tools and Weather. Then we came up with the answers and questions, like they do on jeopardy. In a totally tasteless moment, I conceived the idea for the winning touch -- taking sanitary napkins from our first aid kit, we wrote the answer on the outside of the pad, peeled back the adhesive, then stuck it to the board. When you lifted up the pad, the question was written below it. Then we laughed until tears streamed down our faces (The girls, I mean. The boys were scandalized, but I assured them this was a part of life.)
During the group meeting that night, when the safety forms were reviewed, they mistakenly referred to our entry as Maxi Pad Trivia, but by golly, we won! YES!
My work team of 3 girls and 1 boy (ranging in age from 15-18) completed 4 different sites: we painted a tin roof and leveled one corner of a house at site 1; trimmed trees at site 2; tore down and rebuilt a porch and buit a hand rail at site 3; and built a porch and wheel chair ramp at site 4 (our most ambitious project). I can climb on roofs and paint; and climb ladders and trim trees; and even put my back and wonder bar to use to tear off an old porch; I am quite fearless, spraying down wasp nests, clubbing giant spiders (think walnut sized) and yes, even taking out one small snake; but this construction business was quite unnerving! I was totally out of my comfort zone and I'm sure my kids thought, "How'd we get stuck with HER?" Luckily, there were "floaters" who would show up at the site and show you what to do; or even do it themselves. I think I can build a porch now, but the ramp is still puzzling...
The young man on my team was named BJ. (I asked BJ what the B stood for. He said, "Buford." BJ suddenly made a lot of sense) I really connected with him. I found out he was raised by his grandparents and had no parents. I never learned any details. He was the sweetest kid ever! He started calling me Work Team Mom and I laughed, remembering how the middle schoool kids I went on a trip with called me Den Mother. It seems this is my role and I am embracing it; enjoying it.
There are many more things I could write about from this week. I really cut loose, worked hard, spent a great deal of time in contemplation, worship and prayer, reconnected with my children and the teens at our church, did a good bit of reading, ate a ton of bacon, slept far too little and just had an unforgettable time.
I'll be back next summer!