FIRE…..Again…..and Again…..and Again

I have issues with fire. I know, not many people like a fire that’s not In a pit or a fireplace, but I have more encounters with fire in the WRONG  places than the average person.

My first  encounter with the bad kind of  fire  was when I was  9 years old. We had been at a parade a few miles away from our house and saw the smoke cloud.  Completely out of character for my mom, she  decided to see if we could find it. We drove through a nearby subdivision before giving up and heading home. When we got to the end of our street we saw the fire trucks. It turned out to be two houses over from our own. Neighbors were spraying our shingles and shutters to prevent them from melting, or catching fire. For me it began a fear of fire. For years I would constantly check the stove, hair dryer, curling iron, and other appliances. Unfortunately it would not be my last…..or second to last……or……third.

Moving on to my wedding day. A bit of advice for all of my readers………DON’T LEAN OVER CANDLES. Not even when your drink is on the other side of them, and especially not while wearing a veil. As I stood by the head table talking to my lifelong best friend and bridesmaid, I began to smell something burning. I looked down and noticed a brown spot on my sleeve. “Oh, look Lynn……I burned my sleeve.”  At this point she looked down and started beating my leg, while my father-in-law grabbed my veil from behind, threw it to the ground, and started stomping on it.  Pieces of my veil were burning off and falling on to  the sleeve and skirt of my gown, causing the fire to spread al over me……while I chatted away. Luckily, I got married in the early 90’s and the dresses were big, so no damage to my body. Maybe a few shorter hairs on my head though, as it was not In a fancy upswept style, but hanging down around my face.   It’s amazing it didn’t go up in flames with all the hair spray I used.

A few short years later I was cooking in my mother-in-law’s kitchen. I was pulling something out of the oven, and I heard the potholder “pop.” I knew it must have hit the heating element, but couldn’t see a flame on it. I took it off and started moving it around to check it.  All of a sudden I felt a bit of a burn and as I pulled the potholder away, all the layers stuck to my thumb.  Found it!

When my oldest was about three years old he was sitting at the table eating dinner. I was in the living room and decided to straighten a picture frame that was sitting on our fairly tall entertainment center. I reached over a lit votive to do it. It was already burned pretty low, so I didn’t think it would be a problem. Let me remind you, and rephrase what I said earlier……. DON’T EVER REACH OVER A CANDLE!  Needless to say, my sweater caught fire. Once again I heard a “pop.”  I went into a little panic and did exactly what you should never do……I blew on it, then I watched it race up my arm. Being silly, I was afraid if I stopped, dropped, and rolled, I would start the carpet on fire. It occurred to me to open the door and run outside and roll in the snow, but I can’t imagine what that gust of oxygen would have done for it.  Instead I started doing a little dance and a low scream…….” I’m on FIRE!”  My husband came running out of the kitchen and yelled “STOP, DROP, AND ROLL! ”   Feeling sensibility return, I did just that. The fire really just burned the fuzzies off of the sweater and it was one of my favorites so I asked Bill if he thought I could salvage it. His response….. “You smell like a barbecue.”  My son’s response……. “It’s okay, Mommy. Next time you catch fire you can just stop, drop, and roll, then take off your sweater, throw it away, and buy a new one.”  My thoughts are…..I hope there’s not a next time.

Today. I finished cleaning the kitchen and headed upstairs to get ready to go out. My son, Ethan, was off of work today, by the grace of God, and decided to go in the kitchen to get a drink shortly after I went upstairs. He screamed up to me with panic in his voice, but I didn’t hear what he said and had to ask again. “THERE’S AN ELECTRICAL FIRE IN THE DISHWASHER!”  I started  running downstairs, then had to back track to get my phone. When I got downstairs I opened the dishwasher and asked him to go flip all the circuits off (I am proud of this moment of intelligence compared to what follows.) Next,  I spent at least two minutes trying to remember how to work my phone to dial 911, because that’s what happens with me in these situations.  When my memory returned I dialed. I proceeded talk to them in panic-mode (which I’m sure they’re used to) and within minutes the entourage arrived. Three cop cars and a fire truck. Nothing like a good neighborhood show.

All is fine. The neighbors have been filled in. The crowds have dispersed. A new dishwasher will be here soon……and I pray that this will be the last fire situation I ever have to deal with.

I’ll end this with some advice……….. DONT EVER LEAVE YOUR WASHER, DRYER, OR DISHWASHER RUNNING IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE HOME, OR ARE GOING TO SLEEP.  We were lucky. We were home and awake, but there have been many times I have left or gone to sleep after starting a cycle on one of these appliances. Never again.

…….. and an ever-so-appropriate quote from my sister-in-law.

“Seriously, woman. You and fire…….”

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

I Have a Secret

I have a secret. It’s something that I’m pretty sure I’ve only told one other person before. In the worst of times; at my lowest. I feel like a burden to the ones I love.

I have always been one to get the job done. If it is mine to do, I will do it, and do it well. I don’t like to let people down. I am a list-maker (even if it is only in my head). I like things organized. I like finishing what I start, and that feeling of accomplishment when it’s done. I don’t like giving up control. After I left the working world, my job was household management and care. I was no longer contributing to the bank account, so it was important to me to take care of things at home. If I wasn’t doing that, I felt worthless.

Before I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, I had signs of the illness, but I ignored them. I made up reasons in my mind for them, rationalized what they could be from.  No one could tell, but Bill. He was the one I turned to for help, to pick up the slack when I was under the weather. In my head, I was letting him down. Passing the ball. It was just the beginning of a feeling of helplessness that I despised.

During the years when my Crohn’s was active, I relied on Bill to do a majority of the care givng, and household chores, all while holding a full-time job. I was an extra child. I could do almost nothing at home, required many trips to the doctor’s office and emergency room, and even had to count on him to administer some of my medical treatments. Things I never imagined I would have to ask him to do. It was awkward, embarrassing, humiliating. He handled it like a champ. He never flinched. All in the name of love, I guess.

As a result of, and probably as well as, this feeling, I never liked to talk about my Crohn’s symptoms, side effects, test results, or any other health related issue. I did not want to live a life based around discussions of my disease. I had no control over Crohn’s itself, but I did have control over what I filled my head, and heart with. Unfortunately, it is hard to avoid those topics when your face is blowing up from steroids, but your body is withering away. When you are depending on the care of loved ones, whether you like it or not. Talking about it, just reminded me of the burden I felt I was.

In the 13 years I have been in remission, I have been blessedly healthy. An occasional virus, a broken foot, but far and few between. I still find, however, that I can’t help but return to those thoughts. I am still very sensitive to the fear of being helpless, and dependent on others, and I don’t like to think about the possibility of my Crohn’s returning. At the mere mention of illness, or when a sniffle comes around, I jump on the defensive. I am not sick. I am not defective. I am not.

Recently, I had to undergo kidney stone surgery. It turns out, they are a side effect of my Crohn’s disease. The procedure was outpatient, so I thought that I would feel fine by the next day. Unfortunately, the recovery took longer than I expected, and after a week on the couch at home, I ended up in the hospital for a night. I had to rely heavily on Bill, and It all came flooding back. I constantly apologized. He did nothing to make me think I needed to, in fact, he told me to stop, but that burden feeling returned, if only for a short time.

Bill has always been there for me. He has taken care of every task that needed to be done, and has loved me through every bit of it. He has never questioned, complained, whined, or pouted. While I was worried about what I wasn’t doing, he was worried about whether I was going to survive. Whether I would live to see another day. When you think about it that way, it puts it all into perspective. We all have to rely on our loved ones, some more than others, but in the end they will do what they need to do, because they love us.

You are not a burden. You are not. You are LOVED.

 

Thank You……A Letter to God

Thank you, God, for all the blessings you have given us.

Thank you for my husband. For the life we share. The adventures we have taken. For making him the thoughtful, smart, funny, loving man that he is. For helping us find each other. For helping us make it through tough times together, and continue to grow closer.  For a love so deep, I can’t even find the words to describe it. Thank you for Billy.

Thank you for our parents. Without them, we wouldn’t exist. They kept us safe through childhood. They shaped our personalities. They gave us the tools we need to succeed in life. They love us unconditionally. They are always there when we need them. Thank you for keeping them on this Earth with us for as long as possible. Thank you for our moms and dads.

Thank you for our three beautiful children. For showing us the  love that fills a parent’s heart. For trusting us with their well-being. For keeping them safe. For everything about them. Even the rough moments. Without those, we would take the happiest times for granted. Those difficult patches will help our children grow into strong, independent adults. Thank you for Ethan, Brennan, and Carleigh.

Thank you for our siblings. Without them childhood would have been a much lonelier time. Thank you for giving us someone to play with, and learn from. Someone to fight with. It is through our interactions with them, that we learned many valuable lessons in life. It is them we  turned to in tough times. It is them we continue to turn to. Thank you, for our sisters and brothers.

Thank you for our friends. They help us through the day-to-day. They are like family. They join us to celebrate the good times, and mourn the bad. They are a shoulder to lean on when we need it, and to prop up when they do. We learn from them. We grow with them. Thank you for the friends you have blessed us with.

Thank you for the home we live in, the clothes on our back, the food in our cupboard, the water that flows out of our faucet. Health. Love. For my husband’s job, good schools for our children, and the transportation to get to them. Thank you for giving us everything we need, and more.

Thank you for the sun and the moon. For the green grass and trees, the blue sky in day, and the starry night. For the sound of birds, the smell of flowers, and the feel of a cool breeze. For our oceans, lakes, mountains, and valleys. For rain, snow, and fluffy white clouds. For the occasional rainbow. For glorious  sunrises, and vivid sunsets. For those little, yet big, things that inspire us, and give us hope. Thank you for the beauty of Earth, and the galaxy around it.

Thank you, God, for the life you have provided us. It has been far from problem-free, but the good far outweighs the bad. We have learned from our experiences, and grown because of them. We would not be who we are today without them. Thank you, God, for the all the blessings you have given us.

 

 

Elvis is IN the Building

Elvis is IN the building. At least that’s what he said. On Sunday, April 12th, Bill and I had our vows renewed by Elvis. Well, not the real one. I’m in the group that believes he’s actually dead.

We were in Vegas, and it seemed like the cheesiest, and most awesome thing to do. It was. It was hilarious. Fabulous. Perfect. We got ready at the hotel, and headed down to our limo. A beautiful, white, stretch limo. Our driver was very friendly, and as you all know, I can make a friend anywhere. He was from South Africa (and had a beautiful accent), so I asked him why he moved to the States. He told me his daughter is an actress, and they moved here for her. She got a big break, and is a lead character in a currently running, and very popular show. Seriously. Awesome.

On the first speed bump we hit, in the hotel parking lot (didn’t take me long) I spilled my wine, uh, I mean soda, right down the front of my dress. Unfortunately, it was red grape….soda. We were headed for a big time cliché wedding. All the better. Once arriving at the “chapel”, and yes, I use that word loosely, we headed into the Doo Wop Diner, which we had chosen for our vow renewal. It seemed appropriate for Elvis. We had a 30 second rehearsal, and we were ready to go.

We registered as Billy and Liv. Bill has called me Liv for years. The photographer begins the live internet feed, and Elvis immediately starts calling me “Lin.” I, now, have a huge grin plastered on my face. Could this get any better?! This is a dream come true. Cheesiness at its finest. Then, he starts the song music…on his ITouch…..good grief. Seriously?! It’s the wrong music, so he has to start again. Sometime, in the middle of our quick “ceremony,” right before he starts the second song and hits the wrong song AGAIN, Bill whispers to him that my name is “Liv.” As he starts to sing, he pulls a little yellow sticky note out of his pocket to check the names. Classic. I’m not complaining. It couldn’t have been any more perfect. The best. We thought having an Elvis wedding would be enough. We didn’t even consider the cheesy flaws that could make it better!  We will never forget it.  I’m still smiling about it.

After our renewal, we had the limo driver drop us off at an Italian restaurant for dinner, and later we saw the Criss Angel Believe show.  Tickets we had gotten by attending a time-share presentation that morning. We did one of these in our first year of marriage, and now on our twenty-fifth. This time the gift was better though.  The last time it was supposed to be a TV, but they gave us a “shower spa.” Regardless, I hope we don’t do it on our fiftieth anniversary.

On Monday, we took a trip to Death Valley National Park and enjoyed God’s Beauty. And HEAT. We were lucky though, as it only hit about 103-104F. It was a beautiful day for a drive, and we took some gorgeous pictures. Bill has been on many business trips in the area, and he has always wanted to share it with me, so it was wonderful to experience it with him. We even saw a few dust devils, and tumbleweed. Wild West. Thankfully, we weren’t there on Tuesday, when we had a sandstorm in Vegas. I can’t imagine what that would have been like in Death Valley!

Tuesday was our actually anniversary, and we enjoyed a mellow day at the hotel. The winds were very high, so we couldn’t  use the pool as planned, but it was nice to rest and relax. We ate dinner at The Golden Nugget. Vic and Anthony’s Steakhouse was highly rated, romantic, and had a beautiful old-time steakhouse decor. It was the type of place you would imagine seeing a few mobsters, or members of the Rat Pack. The food and wine were fantastic.

After dinner we went out onto Fremont Street. I love the old school Vegas lights. Thanks to the fact that they have made it into a walking street with a covered roof, we were semi-protected from the wind and cold, and the ceiling lightshow was a nice addition. You could have your picture taken with all sorts there. Super hero, Chippendale, naked cow girl, a multitude of Elvis’. I spent five dollars on the penny slot machines.  It was the perfect venue. I made a few dollars, then lost it all, but I smiled the whole night. It was a great ending to an unbelievable vacation with my man.

Elvis is IN the building.

Lost Under Las Vegas

We are on our 25th anniversary trip. It has been amazing so far. Sometimes I think that I could not be more in love with my husband. And then, I am.

We started at Disneyland. You’re never too old to enjoy Disney. It’s magical. It was sunny and warm, and we felt carefree. We could do what we wanted. We went early, rode on a few rides, had breakfast, walked around, and went back to the hotel for a long nap.  Several hours later, we would head out to Downtown Disney to eat before going back to the park for a show, or more rides. We probably only hit about four rides each day. We didn’t feel the need to wait in endless lines. We soaked in the atmosphere. We enjoyed watching the excited children. When they got tired and cranky, we didn’t have to deal with it. “Awwwww, look at how sad that poor little guy is…… ”  Okay, moving along.

I am continuously in awe of how well Disney masters detail. Down to the  littlest things. The rides, the buildings, the music, the lighting, the benches, the restrooms, the trash cans, the cracks in the walls. Everything is in theme. It is a compete experience. It’s all about the customer.  When checking into the resort hotel, they ask if you are celebrating a special occasion. We proudly wore our “Happy 25th Anniversary” pins (okay, Bill only wore it because we could get free champagne at some of the restaurants.) Almost every cast member we passed commented on them.  “Happy Anniversary!” “Twenty-five years?!”  “That’s not possible!” “You’re too young!” (I have lots of new best friends.) Downtown Disney, Disneyland, and California Adventure, no matter where we were we felt relaxed, young-at-heart, happy. It really is the happiest place on Earth. At least it was for us, for a few short days.

Las Vegas is one of the craziest places on Earth. The people-watching changes drastically. From Mickey ears and strollers, to short skirts, and stiletto heels. Actually, I did see Minnie, next to Hello Kitty, and not far from Sponge Bob and Olaf. I’m not sure what they were doing here, but they were mingling with a few show girls, and walking among the lady-sellers. They also looked like they had been through the wringer. Character convention? Weekend bender in Vegas?!

Last night, on our way back to our hotel, we walked through another,  to catch a tram. The signs to get into the hotel and casino were very clear. To get out….not so much. We were literally, lost under the streets of Las Vegas. Totally sober. We ended up farther away from our destination than when we began. I had no idea there was another world below the streets of the city. I don’t know how the drunks do it.  They may never make it out.

Tonight we saw a show. Absinthe. It was fantastic. Crude humor, burlesque, acrobats, tight rope walkers, tap dancers. All under a circus tent, theater-in-the-round style. We were, at most, five feet from the stage. It was an 18 and over show, and if you were in the first five rows, you had a good chance of being harassed. It was hysterical, and chock full of very talented people. We fluctuated between laughter and awe. On the way back, we stayed above ground.

We are five days in, to our nine-day trip. It was a long time coming, and very much-needed. It will be over all too soon. If only I could find a magic lamp to rub, and a genie to grant me a wish. Slow. Time. Down.

The Best Day of My Life- A Letter to my Husband

Marrying you was the best decision I have ever made. That day changed my life forever. I would not be the person I am today, if it weren’t for you. I wish you believed me when I say…… it was the best day of my life.

Did I ever tell you that you are everything I ever wanted in a husband? That as a little girl, when I thought of my future husband, it was you. A gentleman. Smart, loving, kind, giving, thoughtful. And funny. I still laugh when I think about the “hats” you used to make out of towels, when you finished your shower, in our younger years. Those silly games you made up, that were meant to drive me batty, like “I Got Your Pinky Toe.”  I would be sitting there, minding my own business, and all of a sudden you would be holding my feet up by my pinkie toes. Or when I was reading on the bed, or watching a show, and you’d flop on to me like a fallen tree. You called it, “I’m a Bull Seal.”  Where did that stuff come from?! I love that now and then, you remember, and I find myself trying to figure out how to escape your game. I can’t help but smile and laugh, even though I am stuck, at least until I can convince you to free me. I love you for that. Thank you for teaching me to be lighthearted.

You’ve spent our entire marriage making big plans for us. You started talking about adoption from the day after our wedding, until the day we did. I never thought it would happen. I didn’t think we could ever afford it. You talked about living abroad, long before I had the nerve to do it. You make me believe in things I never imagined. You make the impossible, possible. You fantasize about what we will do in our retirement years. I hope they come true. Thank you for teaching me to dream.

Thank you for taking care of me during my Crohn’s years. For seeing me through those miserable days. For staying by my side. For doing things I’m sure you didn’t want to do, during my recovery from surgery. Thank you for not looking at me differently once I had my Ostomy bag. For loving me just as much. Or more.

You’ve taught me to live a life where fear does not control me, or my decisions. A life where I don’t worry about what others think. That it is okay to do something spur-of-the-moment. That prior planning is not always necessary, or preferred. Thank you for suggesting we take an unplanned trip to Seattle, just for fun, to see my brother, with 12 hours notice, a three-year old, and a newborn. You showed me how to feel carefree. You’re the one I want to spend my wild and crazy days with. Thank you for teaching me to be spontaneous.

Thank you for holding my hand, when we go to sleep. Or snuggling up behind me. For always being close to me at night, no matter how far to the side of our king-sized bed I lay, so I can keep my feet out of the covers. Thank you for holding my hand when we are at the mall, or walking down the street. For opening my car door. For pulling the car up so I don’t have to step in a snow drift, or through the mud. For always making sure the street is safe to cross, even know I’m completely capable of doing it myself.  I love how you protect me. Thank you for showing me how much you care.

Thank you for all the little things you do. For taking the kids to their activities on those days that I can’t stand to get in the car again, even know you’ve had a full day at work. For bringing me coffee in bed. For spending hours making homemade bread. For making that amazing Thomas the Tank Engine cake for Ethan’s 2nd birthday, when I was too sick. Thank you for taking care of the kids by yourself for two weeks, so I could help my parents in Arizona after that medical emergency. And for doing it again, for five weeks, the next year, without hesitation. Thank you for the big things, too.

Thank you for your love of music. For walking into a room blaring a happy song, on a dreary day. For smiling and dancing. For wanting me to sing for you. Or dance with you. For listening to the same song, over and over again. Thank you for “theme songs.”  For almost 30 years you have burst out in song, based on a current situation, whatever it may be.  This skill is now ingrained in my brain. I can pull an appropriate, and timely, “theme” song out of my head at the drop of a hat. Thank you for reminding me to sing and dance.

Thank you for every minute of our life together. The good, and the bad. They have made me who I am today. I don’t regret a single second. Thank you for giving me every bit of you. You are amazing. Inside and out. You are God’s gift to me. You are my everything. Thank you for loving me. Thank you…….for the best days of my life.

 

 

 

 

Rags to Riches- in Marriage

When I think back to where Bill and I began, and where we are now, I am in awe. We have come so far. Farther than we ever imagined. We never knew the blessings that life would bring us, and although we are more financially stable than we were back then, the riches I refer to, lie in our experiences. In sharing our life together. Today, I am focusing on the beginning.

We went on our first date, when I was sixteen years old, and a junior in high school. He was in Navy boot camp, and 18 years old. We had our whole life ahead of us. We had no idea that we would be married less than 5 years later, and we would never have imagined that 23 years to the day later, we would be standing at the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center. The second tallest building in the world at that time. We would never have dreamt that we would have three beautiful children. That we would live in China.

Although there is no big story behind the proposal, Bill did ask my dad for permission beforehand. He has always been such a gentleman. His mama did good. We were married in a park in downtown Charleston, under the “wedding tree.”  It was a huge, old oak tree with more thick, long branches than I had ever seen on one tree before, or since. The park had been partially destroyed by Hurricane Hugo, but the tree still stood proud. Nearby, a man-made pond with a bridge crossing over it. I wore a dress I ordered through the JC Penny’s catalog, and made all the bouquets myself with silk flowers from the local craft store. We were married by the Navy Chaplin, under God’s natural beauty.

Our reception was at a Holiday Inn on Folly Beach, which we were chauffeured to in our friend’s 1960’s era Camaro convertible. Cherry red. The hotel had also suffered damage from the hurricane, but mostly exterior. It provided the beautiful ocean view we wanted, and was fairly inexpensive, so it worked for us. We had invited about 50 people to the dinner, and a bunch of the guys from his boat (a submarine) afterwards.

A few of Bill’s Navy friends hired their favorite local band, as a gift to us, and another friend deejayed as well. When I caught my veil on fire on a candle, the DJ played “Burnin’ Down the House” by Talking Heads. Bill forgot the tape with our wedding song on it, so it became whatever the band knew that worked. “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton. We had a cash bar.  We didn’t do a receiving line, and we forgot the father/daughter dance (that part broke my heart when we realized it.) Our photographer was either new to the profession, or doing it for fun, so for $100 she handed me a large stack of 4×6 prints. We couldn’t afford a honeymoon. The whole event cost us less than $2,500. Too much for us at the time.

Twenty years later, at the 40th birthday party that Bill threw for me at a local Marriott, he made sure that daddy and I had that dance. He knew how much I had regretted missing it at the wedding. Twenty-five years later, we are finally getting that honeymoon. We have only ever taken two trips by ourselves since the kids were born. A weekend in Chicago at 12 years, and a long weekend in San Francisco a few years ago. This year, we will be gone for nine glorious days. Making more memories.

We began our marriage in a one bedroom apartment. We had a day bed for a couch, a hope chest coffee table, a mini-fridge side table. A mattress on the floor in the bedroom, and a red milk-crate bedside table. We had what appeared to be drug-dealing neighbors. The nighttime people-traffic to their door terrified me on the nights when Bill had to be on the boat, and I would sleep with the lights and TV on. Barely getting a wink. We had strange peach spots on our carpet that seemed to be from something seeping up through the floor, and a shower with a wall that glowed a pinkish-orange. I tried to convince myself that maybe this was due to light coming in from the neighbor’s bathroom. It was one of those big, plastic shower inserts, not tile.  Maybe there wasn’t a wall in between?  I generally only saw it glowing in the middle of the night, when they didn’t have a light on, though. When it happened once during the day, I had that neighbor come over to see. She ran out of our apartment as fast as she could. I was trying not to freak out about it. That didn’t help. We never did figure out what it was.

Bill received his honorable discharge in 1991, and we moved back to Michigan. Bill was starting his college degree, and I was finishing mine. We lived with his grandfather for the first couple of years, as we were paying for two college educations. It worked well for all of us. Grandpa liked the company, and we could help him out when he needed it. He was helping us out by saving us rent. And from glowing walls and seeping floors. We were on the next step in our young lives.

It is when I think back to our beginning,  those two kids, blind to what was to come, just trying to survive, that I am in awe. I am proud of us. We don’t live in a huge house, we can’t buy everything we want, we can’t fly off to an exotic locale at a moments notice, or a year’s notice for that matter.  We still have bills, we still have to budget. We are not dollar rich, but when I think about how far we have come, how much we have experienced together, I realize…….we are marriage rich. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Countdown

As Bill and I count down to our 25th anniversary trip, I am going to reflect on some earlier anniversary celebrations. The following blog entry is one of my mom’s favorites.

Bill and Beth Celebrate 18 Years…..

Sunday, April 6, 2008

On Saturday night, Bill and I went to a restaurant called “La Villa Rouge” to celebrate our anniversary.  It is set in quaint old house, which was once part of a recording company. A park has been created behind it, where the record factory once stood, and at this time of day is scattered with older women doing Tai Chi, and children volleying balls around. We had the place to ourselves, as we were having an early dinner, with a table by a large window facing the park. It was the kind of restaurant where kids are not commonly seen, and you get a little bit of very tasty food, at a very steep price.

We ordered a bottle of wine, with no worries about who would drink how much…..a benefit of having a driver, and the couple who hardly ever drinks, finished it off. That would be a first in 18 years. Now if you had been the waiter, or the other two gentlemen standing at the desk, you may have thought I was drunk on my way to the ladies room. This impression may have begun to develop when the American girl (that would be me) came down the stairs and missed a step at the bottom of the first landing. Our waiter, being the gentleman that he was, put his hands out to try to catch me if I continued to fall. He was, however, still a flight below me. I steadied myself as I walked across the landing and then promptly stumble down one…..”I’m fine”………two….”Whoops!”…….three……”Honestly, I’m not drunk!” …….more steps. All the while, our fine, young waiter is standing at the bottom with his arms out, trying to save my ass. Each time I stumble, he apologizes. “Oh, saury……saury…….oh, saury!” Just for the record, they were shallow steps, and the back of my heel kept catching on the last one. I was not drunk! Just very relaxed.

After dinner, we went to the beautiful Shanghai Oriental Arts Center to see a Yue Opera. We were two of what appeared to be five westerners in the whole place, and better dressed than all but the cast. Apparently dressing up is not what they do for the opera in China. They had screens with English translation to the sides of the stage, but you could get the basic story without them anyway. It was the story of an army general and his wife, and there were several other male characters in the show, however, in the tradition of the Yue Opera, every one of them was played by a female. It was a fun experience, and the costumes were gorgeous.

After a romantic, child-free evening together, we arrived home happy, relaxed, and in the mood, so we climbed into bed………….pulled out the fifth season of 24, and watched four episodes. Perfect. 18 years.

 

 

 

Blessings from Heaven- A Letter to my Friends

I have the most amazing friends. I am the luckiest lady alive. My life is far from perfect, but my friends are. They are perfect for me. I hope they know that.

I have a friend that I have known since the day she was born. She is one year younger than me.  Our families are very close. My earliest memory with her is riding tricycles in her driveway. We had dug a couple of old baby bottles out of the cupboard and had her mom fill them with juice for our “bike ride.” We were somewhere between 2 and 4 years old. We traded weekends at each other’s houses. Some of my best childhood memories.  She had to move away when I  was in middle school. I still remember the day we said goodbye.  We have never lived close to each other since, but we get together every few years, if even for a day while passing by on another trip. I hope she knows how often she is on my mind. I wish we could talk more, but when we do, it’s as if no time has passed at all. We have so many memories together, she might as well be my sister. She is, really. I hope she knows I love her. I can’t imagine my life without her in it.

Yesterday, I went out to lunch with a friend I have known since seventh grade. She cracks me up. We always have a great time. She makes me smile until my face hurts. I hope she knows how much I appreciate that. We have taken very different paths in life, but we still have so much in common. We only see each other a few times each year, as she works, and I have kids going in all directions, all the time. But when she calls to tell me she has a day off and wants to get together, it makes my day. Occasionally, we are joined by another classmate. The three of us have a blast. We also happen to have worked together at a movie theater. The best first job ever.  All the more shared memories. I hope they know how much I cherish our time together.

When I joined the local moms’ club In 2001, I met a phenomenal group of women.  I hope they know how lucky I feel to have found them. Our kids are of varying ages, but when we gather as families, there are always a few who are close enough in age to hang out together. We used to have potluck dinners every month, but as the kids got older, they dwindled. Everyone’s schedules are full. Besides, us moms need a break too, so many times we go out on our own.  Last Friday night, a few of us got together for a birthday. Dinner, bowling, and karaoke at a local bar. Just the ladies. These girls are part of a select few who I would get up and sing in public for.  Turns out…..I kind of liked it. We may be back. I hope they know how long it took me to wipe the grin off of my face that night.  I hope they know they mean the world to me.

About 9 years ago, we put an addition on our house. That summer we spent a lot of time outside due to the clutter and noise. That was when I got to know the neighbor a few houses down. We had met before, through a moms’ group friend, but hadn’t had time to hang out much. I hope she knows I gained more than just a bigger house that year. We are opposites in many ways, but not the important ones. She is a strong woman who has dealt with many hardships in life. I hope she realizes how amazing she is. She moved from that house a few years ago, but I know she’s always just a quick trip away. If she’s not, I hope she knows I will hunt her down. She’s stuck with me. Forever.

As an expat for four years, I had the privilege of meeting people from all over the world. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to make friends from so many cultures, and even make new American friends, some from my home state, while living in Shanghai. I feel blessed that I still keep in contact with many of them online, meet up with a few that live nearby, and even vacation yearly with a Canadian family we met in China. I hope they know how honored I am that they are a part of my life. I hope they know how grateful I am for the ability to stay in contact through social media. I hope the women I was closest with, know how much I miss them.

Last year was a rough year in our family. We had several serious medical issues. As I sat in a hospital emergency room with one of my children, I chatted on a social media site with a high school classmate. We weren’t really friends in school, more of acquaintances who had a few classes together. I don’t know how we started the conversation, but I know that it helped calm me during a crisis. It was unexpected. I hope she knows how much that meant to me. Around the same time of year, I was also contacted by another classmate. In our school years, we occasionally talked on the bus, and our brothers were good friends, but we didn’t really know each other back then. I hope she realizes how much I appreciated her reaching out to me. I hope she knows how it touched me. I hope they both know how happy I am to call them friends.

I’ve recently started chatting online with, and getting together with a few of the younger relatives in my family. I didn’t really know them well, until the last few years. I hope they know how much I love seeing them grow up. What beautiful people they are becoming. How much I enjoy our conversations and messaging, giggling over old family photos, or whatever the topic of the day may be. Our breakfasts. Our spring break trip for a family wedding. I hope they know how much I love that I can call them a friend, as well as a sister or niece.

I hope all my friends, every single one of them, knows how rich my life is  just for having them in it. That I will always do my best to be there for them, as they have been for me. That they are irreplaceable. That they are perfect for me. That they are blessings from Heaven.