The Danger of Being Me

I  don’t know why, but I’m prone to slightly comical situations in times of peril. I have managed to maim many a bird with my car. I have caught fire several times. I have difficulty dialing 911, and I mean I literally punching in those three simple numbers.

I think we have all had a bird swoop down in front of our car, as if playing a game of chicken with its litte birdy friends. Escaping, but just barely. For me, one wasn’t so lucky. He apparently, didn’t quite understand the game, because he flew AT the car, not crosswise, in front of it. He flew down below the top of the hood and I lost sight of him.  I didn’t hear a thump,  so I assumed he had miraculously survived. When I got home, I gathered my things and started toward the apartment we lived in at the time. As I rounded the corner of the car, and stepped up onto the sidewalk, I saw said bird……in flight position, head in the grill and body extending outward. (Insert scream here.)  Not the kind of hood ornament I was looking for, I made Bill remove the body. Poor birdy.

That poor little guy wasn’t the only bird that found himself flying into my car. Head on. While driving down the road a few years later,  with my husband in the passenger seat, a blue jay hit my window, dead center driver side. His body then proceeded to bounce to the side of the car and hit the frame of the open window. It could have gone either way. In and onto my lap, or out onto the road…..Thankfully, it was the later. Birds beware. I am a dangerous person.

At my wedding, we had candles on the tables. I was talking to my maid-of-honor near the beginning of the reception, and I smelled something burning. I looked down at my sleeve and saw a small brown burn mark. Very nonchalantly I said, “Look, Lynn, I burned my sleeve.”  Before I could process how that had happened, she began furiously beating my skirt. At the same time, my father-in-law came up from behind me, ripped off my veil, and started stomping on it. I had leaned too close to a candle while retreiving my drink from the head table, and my veil had caught fire. As it burned with a white flame, pieces of it were dropping onto my dress and catching my sleeve and the skirt. Thank God that we loved big skirts, hoops, and crinolines in the early 90s. We went upstairs to my room, cut off the burnt part of the veil, pinned the folds of the skirt to hide the damage, and I walked back into the reception to the DJ playing “Burning Down the House.” I spent the rest of the night showing guest the hole in my dress.

Several years later, I was adjusting a picture frame on our entertainment center. I was a little OCD at that time. It was a tall piece of furniture, and I am short. I had to reach over a lit votive, but the candle was really low, and surely it wouldn’t be a problem. As I pulled my arm away, I noticed a flame crawling up my sleeve. I panicked. I’m usually a quick-thinker in panic situations, but not this time. I blew on my sleeve, adding fuel to the fire. Literally. I watched it go up my arm and head around to my back. I was afraid if I stopped, dropped, and rolled, I might catch the carpet on fire. I know, it was crazy. I thought about going outside to roll, but it was winter, and snowy. So I started jumping up and down and screaming, “I’M ON FIRE!” Luckily my husband was home and told me me stop, drop, and roll, and this time I decided I didn’t care about the carpet. If I had opened the door to go ouside, I would have, again, added oxygen to the fire, and made it worse, and I can’t believe I was so worried about the carpet. As you can see……. I am a danger to myself.

In the end, I was no worse for the wear. A little sad, however, because I LOVED that sweater! It had actually only burned the fuzzies off of it. BONUS! I wanted to get rid of them anyway! Unfortunately, Bill said I smelled like a picnic, and I had to ditch the sweater. Later, my oldest who was 3 or 4 at the time, gave me some great advice. He said “Mommy, next time you catch fire, you just need to stop, drop, and roll. Take off your sweater, throw it away, and buy a new one!” Thanks, buddy.

This last weekend, I was woken from a dead sleep by Bill, screaming up the stairs for me to call 911 for a neighbor who was in trouble. I was barely conscious. I grabbed my phone, fumbling it repeatedly, unlocked it, and looked for the emergency button. I’ve never had to call from my cell, and I thought that button was a direct link to 911, not just a bypass for unlocking it. I remember years ago, people had trouble dialing 911 from cell phones. I still had that memory stuck in my head, so when I dialed it and didn’t get a ring, I assumed it wasn’t working. I dialed twice and hung up both times. Seconds seemed like minutes. Bill came running up the stairs wondering what was going on, and I tried to explain. He grabbed the phone, and requested Siri dial the local police department, to which she responded that I didn’t have voice activation set up. He threw the phone down, and I ran for our Vonage line. We never use it, and it’s not in a convenient location in the house, but we keep it just in case. This was one of those moments. I dial 911. Crap, didn’t turn the phone on. Turn it on, turn in off, dial 911. Shaking. Adrenalin pumping. Good Grief! What’s wrong with me?! FInally, I turn the phone on, and dial properly. What should have taken less than 30 seconds, has now taken at least 2 minutes. We are very close to our police department, so they were there within 2 minutes or less, and as I have said before, they come in large numbers. Our poor neighbor was in trouble for 2 minutes longer than they should have been. They are fine. All is well. Except the fact that I am a dangerous person.

I can’t make this suff up…… just part of the danger of being me.


A Letter to my Dad……on Father’s Day

Where has the time gone,  Daddy?  Just yesterday, you were swinging me around in circles, in the gymnasium of our church. You were buying me toys from my favorite aisle at the grocery store. Giving me the plane ticket stubs I liked to collect from your business trips. Now my youngest child is older than I was then; in the blink of an eye.

This may surprise you, but when I was young, I was a little afraid of you. I think that’s  common for little girls. I’m not sure why, as you never really did anything to cause that fear. Maybe it was the build up that all moms create when they say, “Wait until your father gets home!” Honestly, I don’t remember that ever being said, or what I would have done to cause it, but I’m sure there were plenty of times. I remember in my teen years, when my mouth got ahead of my brain. Those times when your face got bright red in frustration. Your eyes got wide, and you stiffened your body; the “you might want to run” look. But it was never worse than a booming-voiced reprimand, and rare at that.

On the flip side, I have always felt very protective of you. You have always been a quiet man. I think I’ve worried that you would get hurt by someone or something, and keep your feelings bottled inside. My heart would hurt for you, when I felt you had been wronged. When I was the cause of the hurt, the guilt was overwhelming. When Bill and I forgot to do the father-daughter dance at our wedding. When I left to move to South Carolina, not long after that fight we had. It wasn’t because of you. I needed to start my life away from home. I’m sorry I used that as an excuse. To this day, it wears heavy on my conscience. I never want to hurt you. I will always look out for you. No one messes with my dad and gets away with it.

I remember when you had that chest pain scare, and spent several days in the hospital. I was so relieved when we found out it was nothing serious. You were hardly ever sick when I was growing up, and that event happened so long ago, that when you had the stroke last year, it was terrifying. You are my invincible dad. We have never really had to worry about your health. I can’t believe how long I have taken you for granted.

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to spend some quality time with you in the last few years. Why does it  take so long for us to realize that we have never really asked our parent about their childhood? Why we have never delved farther than the basic family stories? I’m so happy that you have been able to share those memories with me. I love learning more about you, and your life before marriage and children. You had a daring side I would have never imagined. It makes me smile when I think about it.

Spending five weeks with you last fall was a gift from God. Second chances, and reminders, that our time together is precious, and unfortunately, limited. I am very thankful for those quiet, peaceful times where it’s just you and I, even though it has not been under the best circumstances, like your stroke, and mom’s surgeries. Everything happens for a reason, I guess. Sometimes good things come out of bad situations.

I feel blessed to have been able to create new memories with you. Our morning walks. Learning about the desert fauna and flora from you. In-and-Out Burger. It will forever be the restaurant that you introduced me to. It will forever remind me of you. I loved our lunchtime field trips when mom was in the hospital. When we would leave her to take a nap, while we got a bite to eat, and a few hours at a local museum, zoo, or garden. Just you and I, and some great memories.

Thank you, Dad, for all that you have done for me. For helping to mold me into the person I am today. For always making sure I had a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my belly. For teaching me right from wrong, responsibility, and to always try my hardest. For loving me, and teaching me what love means.

Happy Father’s Day. I’m so lucky that you are my dad. I love you more than words can say. Don’t ever forget that. You mean the world to me.



The Town That Time Forgot

……………And back to my beloved China.

The Time That Time Forgot

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Today, on the way home from the Chinese New Year performances at the children’s school, Brennan referred to the village we pass through as “the town that time forgot.” I have written about this town before, how poor it is, and the contrast between it, and the high-tech American school down the street. This statement made me start thinking about other things in Shanghai, and how they compare to what we see in the United States.

The cargo trucks which we see on the streets of this city look like they drove right out of the 1960s. Whether they are that old or not, I do not know, but the design does not seem to have changed since then, and they all look very weathered. The taxis seem to be 80s style VW Santana. Run down and stinky. Painted in crazy colors like “Aquafresh” green and “Monk garb” yellow.

Most of the time, the locals here do not wear helmets when riding bikes, scooters, or motorcycles. If they do don headgear, it seems to have popped right out of a Godzilla movie, or maybe Hogan’s Heroes, and is usually not secured to their head. Here it is very common to see an entire family (usually one man, one woman, and a child, but sometimes more) riding around town on the same bike. Baby or child sandwiched between mom and dad, or a woman or child riding side-saddle on a board attached over the back wheel.

Outside the gates of our compound, they are building new housing. The crane they are using appears to be a hand-me-down, passed on from generation to generation for the last 40 years. Some of the materials they are using look like they have also seen better days. Rusted metal re-enforcing bar, broken bricks. These will all be concealed in a thick layer of cement. In China, the bricks go on the inside of the structure, never seen unless the building is going up, or coming down.

In Shanghai, there are no drive-thru restaurants. Take out, actually requires getting out of the car (unless you order Sherpas, like we do, and have it delivered to your door), and your food cannot be paid for with a credit card. Regulations on food, such as milk, eggs, and meat are just recently starting to catch up with western countries. Fresh fruits and vegetables are sold off of the back of trucks and carts parked throughout the city. Many locals buy their food on a day-to-day basis, as not everyone has a refrigerator.

This “lost in time” feel can also be very charming, though. In China, you can walk around the corner from a five-star hotel, and feel like you have just travelled to a quaint 1940s Chinese village. A place where life is simplified. Far from the hustle and bustle of today’s world. Where neighbors sit and chat outside for hours at a time, while they shuck corn, or snap green beans. Above their heads, their laundry is hanging on a line to dry.

Shanghai is at the same time, very modern. The five-story science museum is like none I have ever seen before. There is a Maglev train. It is not uncommon to see Ferrari and Porsches. There are almost 100 Starbucks throughout the city. Five-star hotels, five-star restaurants, upscale malls, countless fancy, expat, housing compounds, international schools, and billion-dollar western companies. Disney is very close to a deal with the Chinese government to build its largest park in the world here (Shanghai Disney is now expected to open in 2016.)They have recently opened a cruise ship port. The soccer events for the 2008 Olympic games were held in Shanghai, and the World Expo will be held here in 2010.

I guess these things are what keep Shanghai so completely engaging to me. I never get tired of watching out the car window, as we travel the streets of the city. I will always see something I have never noticed before, or something I expect I will never see again.


If Only You’d Known…….

If I could go back to age thirteen, I would tell myself to enjoy the last few years of childhood. Don’t wish for time to speed up. Before you know it, you will have more responsibility than you ever imagined. The only thing left of those younger years will be the memories. Experiences that you will pass down to your children, as lessons in life.  The adventures you had, and those that you wish you had been brave enough for. If only you’d known….

I would tell myself not to worry if you’re in the “popular” kids group. This means nothing after the school years, or during, really. When they hardly notice you, ignore you, or scoff and turn away, let it go. They are not important in your life.  You will never forget the good times you’ve had with your group of friends, and that’s all that matters.  Be kind to the quiet kids, or the ones who seem to disappear into the background. Say “hello” and give them a smile, many of them have very little self-confidence. They need reassurances just like you. Everyone needs a friend. Later, you will think of these kids, and wish you had noticed them more. You might feel like you treated them almost as badly as that other group treated you.  If only you’d known…..

Don’t worry about whether you have designer clothes, or the latest electronics. There is plenty of time for new toys in your future. Later on you will learn that those things don’t bring happiness anyway. At least not long-term. When those things are gone, they are gone for good. Spend your money on experiences. Memories last forever. Even when they are over and done with, they are never forgotten. They will always bring a smile. If only you’d known………

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Be brave. You will never regret trying. Don’t worry about what others think. The only ones who will remember later, are you, and those you inspired to do the same. Later,  you will reflect on the times that you did, like when you joined track in tenth grade. You were terrible. You lost every race, even to an injured runner, but you have never once said, “I shouldn’t have done that.” It will be a lesson for your future children. It will be a story told many, many times. You will wish you had stepped out of that box more frequently. If only you’d known…….

There will be times in life that will be really difficult. You will question why God is doing this to you? Why He is letting it happen. This is normal, and understandable, but then remember that there is a reason, even if you don’t know it yet. There are many tests in life. Learning from them, and growing from the experience, is how you know you passed. You will rely on God far more than you realize. He will bring you comfort that you never thought He could. If only you’d known……

The greatest moments in your life will include kindness, compassion, confidence, trust, love, belief, growth, learning, honesty, and a bit of risk. Are you being KIND and COMPASSIONATE?  Do you have CONFIDENCE? Are you TRUSTWORTHY? Do you TRUST the people around you?  Do you LOVE? Do you FEEL LOVED? Do you BELIEVE in yourself? In a higher-being? In the life you are leading? Do you continue to GROW as a person? Do you continue to LEARN from your experiences? Your mistakes? Are you being HONEST with yourself? With others? Do you take a RISK now and then? A leap of faith? Something that scares you just a little. Or a lot.  I think being able to answer “yes” to these questions,  means you are working hard to be the best person you can be. Experiencing life to the fullest. A sure path to inner peace, and I hope, happiness. I wish I had asked myself these questions when I was younger. I wish I had realized that these few questions would help me get through the more difficult years. If only I’d known……