America….Stop Being So Sensitive!

Why are American’s so easily offended theses days? I really don’t get it. I don’t care what someone else says, does, writes, or “tweets.” They cannot change who I am, what I do, or what I believe in . Why does everyone have to watch everything they say so carefully? One wrong, most likely unintended word, and the whole context of the statement is blown out of proportion.

The other day an NBC announcer tweeted the word “real” in a statement about an adoptive child and her parents. What they really meant was “biological,” but because of one word the news exploded. It was like a call to the country, or at least those who feel the need to be easily offended even when it has nothing to do with them, to validate adoptive parents.

I am an adoptive parent. I know who I am to my daughter and no one can change that.  I am not offended by that statement and neither should anyone else be. No one can change who you are or what you do with a word, or a statement. Why do we as Americans feel the need to place so much weight behind another individual’s off-handed comment? Why do we feel that everyone has to use specific terminology or we will immediately be offended for whoever it may remotely apply to? More often than not it does not apply to the offended one, and does not offend a majority of those who it may apply.

This is merely one example of what continues to be a growing  issue in this country. I could go on forever.

Please America…..STOP BEING SO SENSITIVE!

 

 

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Into the Darkness for Dinner…….Memories of Shanghai

Original post: Saturday, October 25th, 2008, on a blog that no longer exists.

Last night we ate at a restaurant called “The Black Cafe” with our friends Andrea and Patrick. It is a restaurant geared towards allowing its patrons to step into the shoes of someone who is blind.

The first level is a bar called “The Visual Zone.” It has dim lighting, and is a comfy area to have a few drinks. It is also where you look at the menu, make your dinner selections, and stow your belongings in a locker, in anticipation of the mess you’re going to make eating in the dark. Once you have prepared yourself, you are led up a narrow and winding staircase to “The Dark Zone.”

When you arrive at the top of the stairs, you are introduced to your blind waiter or waitress, who leads you and your party choo-choo train style, through a dark curtain to your table. Each person is directed to their chair, and once all parties are seated, the waitress will tell you where each and every item on the table sits. Silverware, cups, water bottles, napkin. The meal is served as in every other restaurant, bread and drinks, salad, soup, main course, then dessert. Bill and Andrea had chosen the beef filet, Patrick and I, “the mystery meal.” Each course would be a surprise, but we were assured it consisted of items we had seen on the menu.

The evening consisted of plenty of feeling around the table and your plate. There was a water bottle and bread basket for Patrick and Andrea, and one for Bill and I. ” Is this our breadbasket?” “Where’s my beer?” “Oops, there wasn’t actually anything on my fork that time.” ” I’m trying to figure out if there is anything left on my plate.” “What are you handing me, Bill? Oh, another tomato…..I see that you can even sniff them out. No fooling you.”

The food was extremely tasty, and for those of you who are wondering, the mystery meal was the same as the others for the salad and soup, and the main course was a very pleasant surprise. Chicken, smoked ham, shrimp, beef filet with a convenient bone handle, veggies, and a potato. The only thing I couldn’t identify was in my salad, and may have been a mild piece of fish…….but I don’t want to know, nor think about it.

We adjusted to being in the dark, and even stayed around to chat after we finished our meal. Nothing was spilled, and they kindly supplied napkins that were much bigger than your average China napkin, which is usually a cocktail glass size, or tissue (literally). It was a great night, and we would do it again in a heartbeat. All in all, a great life experience!

Author’s note: Unfortunately, this restaurant has since closed for business.

 

What I learned from my Crohn’s Disease

Part III –  Repost for Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week. Spread the word.  Share to increase awareness. There is hope!

As I have said before, I have Crohn’s Disease. It has been in remission for 12 years, but from a year after my diagnosis in 1998 to August 2002, it was like a wildfire reeking havoc on my body.

I spent three years, from the summer of 1999 after Brennan was born, until my major surgery in 2002, fighting for my life. I didn’t realize it at the time. It snuck up on me in little increments, and before I knew it had overtaken my body. Specifically, my large intestine. I was on a severely restricted diet, and took handfuls of medication and vitamins. I was constantly in doctor’s offices, or emergency rooms. I had raging fevers, higher than you would think a person could survive. Higher than the kind that send parents into panics. I had a racing heart, even at rest, lost partial vision in my eyes, and fought a staph infection in my leg for a week in the hospital. I never had the stomach pains that many people with Crohn’s do, but I probably spent more time in the bathroom than the average person will spend in their lives. My weight went down to 88 pounds.

In the end of December 1999, after spending the holidays (which are crazy busy during NORMAL circumstances) at my grandmother’s and Bill’s grandfather’s viewings and funerals, I got what appeared to be the flu. It went on for a week or so, and didn’t seem to be getting better. As lay down for a nap one day, I said a prayer. I asked God to give me a sign. To let me know if I should go to the doctor after the New Year, or if it would go away on its own. When I woke up, I had little insect bite-like bumps all over my body. I will never forget that moment. We are a quietly religious family. I have always been a believer, but this was a pivotal moment in my life, my belief, and love of God. I spent the next two weeks in the hospital.

I remember, sometime in the second or third year of my Crohn’s, being exhausted. Tired of the constant battle. Laying on the bed, getting ready for another nap. I, again, said a prayer. I asked if I would be feeling better the next day, and begged that I would. Within a minute or two, and I kid you not, the phone rang a strange double ring. It reminded me of the way my phone at work rang when I was getting an interoffice call. When I picked it up, it was an operator recording. “I’m sorry, your request cannot be processed at this time. Please hang up and try again later.” I ran downstairs and asked Bill, who was sitting on the couch, if he had heard the phone ring. He said yes, but didn’t notice the weird ring. Another moment I will never forget. I am still quietly religious, but much more so. I believe. No one could ever tell me otherwise.

I fought having the surgery to remove my colon for a long time. I was too young to have an Ostomy bag. I was only in my early 30’s. How could I deal with that for my entire life?! I finally gave in to myself, it was my choice. I wanted to be there for my boys, and I was just too ill to be the mom I wanted to be. When the surgeon went in for my pre-op colonoscopy, he couldn’t even complete it due to the swelling. I had put the procedure off, and if it had been done sooner I’m sure they would have told me how dire the circumstances were. I’m glad I made the decision myself prior to that. I’m glad that I did it for the love of my family. In the end, it would turn out to be so much more than that.

That surgery saved my life. Literally. It was that bad. I can now eat anything I want, I take no medication for Crohn’s, and am back to a more-than-healthy weight. And I am LIVING. Living a life I wouldn’t be, if not for said surgery. I am living a life I would not be, if not for Crohn’s Disease.

I have learned to appreciate the little things that so many take for granted. The blue sky, white clouds, green trees. The contrast between them, and the beauty of it. The breeze. The birds. The smell of fresh air.

I have learned not to take my family and friends for granted, and to catch myself when I think that I am. To take care of them, as they took care of me. To love them with everything I have. To look to them for strength when I need it, and to give strength and support to them when they do.

I have traveled farther out of my comfort zone than I ever thought I would. If not for Crohn’s we would not have traveled abroad, adopted our daughter, or lived in China. Before Crohn’s my life was ruled by fear of the unknown. After Crohn’s, by the spirit of adventure, and a love of life.

I have walked on the Great Wall of China, and stood before the first emperor’s Terracotta Warriors. I have trekked through the rainforest in Langkawi, Malaysia, and floated through the mangroves. I have basked in the hope of longevity from the waterfall of the Pure Water Temple in Kyoto, Japan, and walked the Nightingale floors of Nijo’s Castle. I have explored the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, and traveled through the Mekong Delta. I have walked the beautiful beaches of Vietnam. I have zip-lined through the trees in Thailand, and fed an elephant bananas. Right into that giant mouth. I have been to the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea, and I have stood in North Korea, in the MAC (Military Armistice Commission) building.

Through my Crohn’s Disease I learned how to live. How to love. How to learn. But I’m not done. I have so much more to see, so much more to experience, so much more to love, thanks to my Crohn’s Disease.

Mama

I’m one lucky girl. My mom has always been there for me, through thick and thin, good times and bad. I don’t remember ever having to question whether I could count on her when I was in need. I just knew. Considering she didn’t have much of a role model (her alcoholic mother died when she was 13, and her dad, of a stroke, when she was 18), she has done a phenomenal job.

When I was a baby, I was allergic to almost every food, as well as mold, dust, pollen, and animal dander, and had severe asthma, as well. Although I eventually outgrew them, they were a daily obstacle throughout my infant, toddler, and young childhood years. My diet required that she co-ordinate my food not only at home, but also at school, friend’s houses, and even the occasional restaurant. She spent many weekends fishing with a family friend for blue gill, to add to my limited diet of lamb, rice and apples. She bought soy baby formula for me until I was 10, as regular soy milk was not on the market yet, and ordered special rice bread which was delivered to our local Sander’s freezer. She didn’t even have to ask for it, she went right into the “employees only” door and got it out herself. She has always been a friend to everyone, and they trusted her. That’s just the kind of person she is.

As the mother of a special needs child, she was ever vigilant of my food, and surroundings, and I was in a never-ending state of testing her skills. I was constantly finding ways to sneak the food I wasn’t suppose to have, and hiding under tables, or outside, to relish it. She was continuously in fear of me dropping dead of an allergic reaction or asthma attack. The poor woman could never let her guard down.

My mom and I had a rocky relationship in my latter childhood years. We fought frequently. We are very much alike, and we were constantly butting heads. We both felt we needed to win any given argument. When I was a teen, and young adult, our conversations were confrontational and loud. She worried about so many things, and I was constantly defensive. She had a difficult childhood, and between that and my stressful younger years, she spent her days in protection mode. She was always trying to help, and I  resisted. In my defense, if I had followed every bit of advise she’d given, there are many things I would have never done, a number of which helped me to become the outgoing, semi-adventurous, person that I am. I have always been headstrong, and prefer to do things my way. I have never really felt comfortable accepting others help, even when it was obvious I needed it.

In the worst of my Crohn’s years, when 105 degree fevers were a daily occurrence, and my husband had to travel often for work, I would tell her I was fine, and she didn’t need to come stay with me. She has had serious back problems since an injury when she was in her mid-thirties, and I knew it would be rough for her to take on my daily chores, and spend the night in a bed that was not adjusted for her back. I had a very active 1 year old, and a 4 year old, and thought that it would be better to do it on my own, than risk her further problems. I was feeding the kids wrapped in a blanket, shaking with fever-induced chills. I concentrated on tiny increments of time, just trying to make it from breakfast, to lunch, to dinner, to bedtime, but would not take her up on her offer for help.

My mama is not one to take “no” for an answer, so she came anyway.  She took over the household, and caring for the boys, so I could rest. She drove me to doctor’s appointments, did the grocery shopping, made meals, and doled out medication. She may have even tucked me into bed. Following my abdominal surgery, she came again, and even though Bill was no longer traveling as much, she stayed for several weeks to help him with the kids and me. We spent more time together during those years, than we had since I was very young, and I started to realize she was not only a loving and attentive mother, but fun, and I actually enjoyed being with her.

When Bill, the kids, and I packed up and moved to Shanghai, we only saw my parents when we returned in the summer, and not many times at that. We’ve all heard the old saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” and it proved to be true. It was while in China, that my mom and I had some of our best telephone conversations. At least up until the line went staticky and we realized we had said something that the Chinese monitors didn’t like, and we had to end it for the day.

My mother was never comfortable with us moving to China, as I’ve said, she has always been a worrier. She would much rather have her children tucked safely under her wing . It was while living abroad, that I started trying to calm some of her fears and worries, instead of taking offense or fighting them. It was then, that I started being an adult on the phone with my mom, when I finally stopped arguing and started listening, and discussing, that my mom and I finally fell into step together.

In 2013, and again in 2014, I went down to my parents’ winter home to help care for my mom after back and neck surgery. It felt good to return the favor, and spend some time with my parents by myself.  We had the best time together, especially our 5 AM mother/daughter coffee talks….. and it takes something pretty special for me to enjoy anything at that time of morning. She shared stories from her childhood, and her young adult life, and we reminisced about our early family memories. Of course, one of my favorite things to talk about with her as an adult, has always been the things my siblings and I did that she never knew about. And, hey! We lived to talk about it! There was never any time of day better than those crack-of-dawn mornings, in the rocking recliner chairs, in their tiny TV room.  I will always cherish those moments.

My mama is a giving and compassionate woman. She will go out of her way to help a friend or family member. If you are good to her, you are a friend for life. She doesn’t take friends or family lightly, and she will not let you down. She is as good as it gets, and more than you could ever hope for in a friend or relative. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I am forever grateful for the gift from Heaven that is, my mom.

 

Crazy Lucky

I am crazy lucky.

I have three beautiful, smart, kind, loving, funny, and sometimes difficult,  children. They talk back, whine, fight, and complain. They give, share, hug, snuggle, teach, laugh, and smile. I wouldn’t change a bit of it. God has blessed me with, and trusted me to raise, three of His creations. I am crazy lucky.

I have a handsome, loving, intelligent, thoughtful, goofy, gentlemanly,  and sometimes frustrating, husband. There are times I think he must have ear plugs in. He is moderately forgetful, and definitely procrastinates. He opens my car door, holds my hand, including when we go to sleep at night, and spoils me rotten on my birthday. I’ll take it all. God has blessed me with the most amazing man. I am crazy lucky.

Thirteen years ago, I was severely ill, but I cheated death.  I never even thought death was possible, until the threat was over. Crohn’s disease, as I discussed in a post earlier this year, tried to kill me. It failed miserably. It may have taken a few physical parts of me, but it GAVE me lessons that were far more important. Appreciation. Love. Insight, to live happy, and grateful. In fact, it gave me life. Although I will always have it, I have been in remission ever since. God blessed me with the opportunity to make the most of my life, and I do. I have a love of life that I never would have had, if not for Crohn’s disease.  I am crazy lucky.

My family and I have been given opportunities that many are not. Adventures that I would have never taken advantage of, before my illness. We lived in, and travelled all over, China for four years. We’ve had family vacations in Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Macau. My children took week-long school trips. Camped on, and hiked, unrestored sections of the Great Wall to see the sunrise. Excavated archaeological sites in Gansu province for dinosaur, and dinosaur-aged, fossils, and brought them home in handfuls, wrapped in paper towels.  Swim meets in Taiwan, and drama workshops in Manila. Finally, a girls’ weekend in South Korea. The DMZ, palaces, Korean BBQ, shopping, and a show. Thirty-six hours for a friend and I, before we moved back to the U.S. I have friends all over the world, literally. God blessed us with experiences, relationships, and memories that we could have never imagined. I am crazy lucky.

The kids and I returned from China six months before Bill, as I had been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer. It is a myeloproliferarive disorder, called Essential Thrombocythemia. It causes high platelets,  and requires that I take a chemo pill every day. It will always require treatment. It does not go away. It is fairly controllable though, and it is only a pill or two, along with frequent blood tests. The chances I will live a normal life span are fairly high. So, once again, God has blessed me. I am crazy lucky.

I am not alone. We all have ups and downs in life. Illness. Death. Job loss. Weddings, new babies, or an unexpected promotion. We have good days, and bad. It is how we choose to deal with those times, and what we take away from them, that matters. I choose to live my life with gratitude and happiness. I try to be the best I can be, and enjoy my time on Earth with every part of my being. I love my life. God has blessed me in many ways. I am crazy lucky!

 

And She Danced……

It has been a long couple of years, since I saw my baby girl happy. I didn’t realize it was gone at first, then I brushed it off as hormones, and then, as written in my previous post, we learned of the bullying. It has taken a long time for her to recover from the experiences, but yesterday, I saw her dance, just because, and my heart danced too.

For the last month, I have noticed some drastic, but very positive, changes in her behavior. She joined volleyball again. It was not a surprise, we knew she would, but last year this was the only extra-curricular school activity she wanted to participate in. During the summer, when she was invited to parties that classmates were having, she was leary and nervous. I pushed her to go, and she did, but she was very anxious. When the school sports night email came last month,  I threw it away. I assumed she wasn’t interested. I mentioned the emal to her a few days later and she, very enthusiastically I might add, said she DID want to go, even though she didn’t know if any friends were attending, and my heart danced.

One night, last week, I woke up at about 3:30 AM, sleeping on my stomach. I don’t normally sleep in this position, but that wasn’t the most unusual part. There was a head on top of mine, coming from the opposite direction from where my husband was, and a sweet, soft, snore, whispering in my ear. My not-so-little girl, had come in and laid down with me, something she has rarely done, and not for a very long time. She has never been a hug-and-a-kiss-goodnight kind of girl, so this was highly unexpected. My heart was bursting with love, and it danced.

Recently, she has put down the itouch more, or at least switched to just listening to music, instead of incessantly texting, or playing games. It is no longer super-glued to her hand. Instead, she is outside with a volleyball, practicing her overhand serve. She has been turning her electronics in earlier at night, for my review, and I have much less content to  peruse. My girl is making me proud, and my heart dances.

A few weeks ago, she handed me a permission slip for the school choir, and spirit brigade. She turned them in a little late, but was assured spots next semester. She is looking forward to both. Yesterday, she asked me to sign her up for the school swim team, and S.T.E.M club. I am in awe of her bravery. This kid sure can make my heart dance.

Finally, as her volleyball team met with the coach last evening, a group of girls stood still, listening intently, and one danced. Normally I would tell my child to stand still and pay attention to their coach. But she danced, and I’m pretty sure she was listening. Regardless, she danced, and my heart danced too, and I thanked God.

 

Centipedes, Spiders, and Slugs…..Oh My!

Centipedes, Spiders, and Slugs….Oh My!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bill and I have been looking into moving to an apartment when our lease is up in February. We have been fairly happy with the house we have been in, but among a number of other minor reasons, we are trying to get away from some of the bugs. It is very humid in Shanghai,  which proves to be a marvelous breeding environment for mosquitos. Every time we open a door or window, a multitude fly in. If we move to an apartment above the 5th or 6th floor, we will reduce the number of mosquitos that get into our home. This last summer, we slept with mosquito nets on our beds, and Raid plug-ins in each room. Bill would actually use bug spray when he woke up in the morning, so that he wouldn’t get eaten alive in our STUDY. One night a mosquito, (or two, three, four..etc) got into Ethan’s net, and he was bitten 69 times (yes, he counted.)

We also frequently have REALLY LONG centipedes in the house. Although they seem really cool to look at in books, on TV, or in photos, I haven’t found them quite as intriguing when they are skittering across my kitchen floor. They actually, to put it mildly, complelely CREEP ME OUT! I’m generally the girl who sees a bug, grabs a tissue, paper towel, or shoe, and smashes them without blinking. With centipedes, I grab a paper towel AND make sure I have shoes on, before I drop the paper towel on top of them,  and SCREAM everytime I stomp down on it. This must be done very quickly though, as they are very speedy little creepers! I think the children, considering how quickly they jumped on my bed the other day, have the same opinion as me. There’s nothing quite as terrifying as thinking that there’s a dead centipede on your bedroom floor, and calling the kids in to see it, and then having it suddenly come back to life and scurry off. YIKES!

Then there are the slugs. I have seen a few almost “cute” slugs on the street, while waiting with the kids for the school bus in the morning. If you look closely, you can see their antenna, and I can picture them singing, like in the movie, “Flushed Away.” However, one evening, when our inside kitchen door was accidentally locked (we haven’t been able to find a key for it), Bill ran outside to go through the back door to unlock it. He didn’t take the time to put on shoes, and apparently, the slugs that visit our patio at night are of the extremely large, mutant, variety with an especially squishy, slide factor when stepped on. This makes for a very unhappy husband.

We also have a resident spider (not the spider pictured above). Her web is suspended between two bushes right outside our house, where the children wait for the bus. She hasn’t bothered us in any way, minding her own business and collecting all sorts of bugs in her giant web, but she is one of those large, white, spiders, much like the one who was in my car on my way home from my 20 week ultrasound wihile pregnant with Ethan. The one that I was pretty sure my very nasty ultrasound technician had morphed into, before she stationed herself above my head on the car’s window frame after I left the hospital (what else could it be? I had never seen a white spider before!) I noticed her, right after I turned onto the main road on my way home. I started frantically looking for a place to pull over, but before I did, I felt her drop onto my head. I made a quick turn into a condo complex, all but FELL out of the car, and proceeded to jump up and down, shaking my head and hair towards the ground, doing the ” There’s a spider in my hair dance” in front of a lawn maintenance crew. Good times. Good times.

Last week we did find an apartment we liked, and if everything goes well, we will be moving in February. We will be on the ninth floor, and are hoping to at least REDUCE the number of bugs and such in our living space here.

 

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.

 

Visions of China…….

This blog was written during our time in Shanghai, our second home, which I miss everyday.

Visions of China

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

As I look out the window of the tour-style bus that I ride with the children on Tuesdays, I think about how my views of China have changed in the last 8 months. When we first arrived I noticed the extreme poverty that is prevelant in so many areas, and how it is so close in relation to areas of extreme wealth.

Right outside of the gates of over-priced, over-sized, ostentatious compund, is a gentleman who sells Chinese pottery. He has just recently chosen this spot to set up “shop.” A mere ten feet from his products, stands his tent. This is his home, not just shade for the day. Just 50 feet from his location, the migrant worker’s housing starts. This is a “neighborhood” built of tin shacks, where the men, and sometimes their families, who are building the new part of our compound live.

When we first arrived, I was greatly bothered by these sights, but they are common to me now. I still find it very sad, but it is no longer a shock to see. It is everywhere. Tucked into the corners of downtown Shanghai, next to five-star hotels and expensive shopping, and on the road which leads to Shanghai American School.

I have stopped looking at these things as upsetting, and begun to enjoy watching the people within them. I find these areas are one of my favorite parts of life in China. Of course this is from the outside looking in. I could never imagine living this way, but they handle it gracefully. It is all they have ever known.

On the road to the school, there is a small, poor, town. It is not a tin shack town, but a few steps higher on the housing ladder. People sit outside their homes eating breakfast, doing laundry, taking care of grandchildren. The “shops” consist of open stalls, selling whatever the locals may need. Everything looks old and dirty. Items we would probably never touch. The local school looks like a warehouse, or even an abandoned buiding. It took me a long time to realize it was the town school. I see the students occasionally, lined up to go inside.

A few hundred yards away, the gates to another expensive housing compound, and an international American school. Millions of dollars of materials and technology, just a short walk from poverty. We know which provides the better education. We know which kids are sure to have a full tummy at night. We know which children have a better chance of physical health.  I wonder how the souls of those children compare with mine. I’m sure they’re full of family, friends, and love, with no expectation of anything else.

 

 

A Soft Place to Fall

We live in a small community. Our town is a mere 2.6 square miles of densely packied houses, within a huge metropolitan area. It is where we bought our “starter” home. We said we would be here about five years, and they told us that many people say that, but few leave. We have been here 18 years. For us, it has become a soft place to fall.

We have added on to the house, and made many improvements. It has grown with us. It exudes who we are. It is a virtual rainbow of colors, some bold, some subdued. Wood floors and plantation blinds. Paintings, photographs, knickknacks, and furniture from all of our adventures. All these touches bring warmth, comfort, and character to it.  It’s not a very big house, only 1600 square feet, but it’s just enough for me. I have told friends for years that I like a house that “hugs” me. It feels safe. It is a soft place to fall.

We moved to China for four years, but we always came back twice a year. Christmas and summer were spent here. It was home base.  We didn’t rent it, or move our things out. We left most of our possessions here. When we walked back in, we felt like we had never left. We have friends and neighbors who have been here with us for many years, through thick and thin, good times and bad. They are like family. They are here when we return. It is a soft place to fall.

Our community is chock full of young families, but it wasn’t always that way. When we first moved in, it was mainly retirees. The “downtown” area was dated, and although it had a bank, post office, grocery store, gas station, and a number of other small businesses, it wasn’t the kind of place that people would come to hang out on a weekend. I had a feeling in my gut that was going to change. It was a great location, and a better value than the areas around it. It is now full of unique gift shops, restaurants,  pubs, spas, and coffee shops. Many of the old houses have been torn down for new builds. Others have updated existing homes. There isn’t a day you won’t find people wandering around the area. Walking dogs. Pushing strollers. The local ice cream shop has a line going out the door every day. I see people I know every time I go out. It is a soft place to fall.

This morning, I was woken up before 7am to a child hollering up the stairs…”There is a fire truck at the next door neighbor’s house!” I rushed outside to find our neighbor standing outside his house, surrounded by emergency vehicles and personnel. There seemed to be every available officer from our town and several from the next town over. We are lucky to not have many crimes,  or emergencies in our community. Not much happens here. They come out in large numbers when something does. There were at least 6 police cars, two fire engines, and an ambulance. They had arrived no more than two minutes after his call. They are looking out for us. We are safe here. It is a soft place to fall.

The events of this morning reminded me of the things I love about our town. Standing outside talking with neighbors about what was going on. Being there for one another. Our hometown heroes, our police officers, taking the time to chat with us, while they waited for the electric company to come. Accepting the coffee I offered. There is truly nothing better than having a small town feel, within such a large metropolitan area. It is our little slice of heaven. A soft place to fall.

We stumbled upon our town while looking for this house. It is small enough that I had hardly ever heard of it before then, much less known where it was, or imagined that I would spend so much of my life living in it.  It was unexpected. A pleasant surprise. A blessing from God. It is OUR soft place to fall.