I Am Not Old, But……

I am not old. In fact, I am very young-at-heart. I love life. If you have read my previous posts you know that I have had some very rough periods in the past. I haven’t even told you all of them. It is because of these moments that I am the strong, confident, life-loving, person thar I am today. I refuse to be bitter, or harbor grudges or hate. Life is too short. Life is too beautiful. 

I am not old, but I am too old to put up with negativity. It’s waste of time. If you don’t like it and it is not under your control to change, or the likelihood is exceptionally small, than figure out a way to live with it. You’re only hurting yourself and your health. When you are on your deathbed are you going to think….”I’m so glad I spent all those years being negative and bitter!”? Probably not. 

I am not old, but I am too old to worry about your opinion of me. If you don’t like my political beliefs, or they don’t line up with yours, and you feel that you cannot be my friend because of that, then  you have never been a real friend, because I have stuck with you regardless of your political beliefs. 

I am not old, but I am too old to deal with baseless rants. I am always up for a good debate. In fact, I enjoy them. I am open to your point of view, but you have to be open to mine. This doesn’t mean we have to agree in the end, but we have to be willing to listen and respond to opposing views with thoughtfulness and kindness. We should respect each other’s right to a differing opinion. 

I am not old, but I am too old to waste my time with anger or self-pity. Of course I have these feelings every now and then, but I only allow myself a day or two. After that it’s back to rainbows and unicorns. Why? Because life is too short, and I’m  going to enjoy every minute of it that I can. 

I am not old, but I am too old not to love the life that I am living. I wish more people would do the same. 

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Welcome to My Party! 

Many of you know me personally. I am a cheerful person most of the time, however, every now and then life gets me down. I’m not looking for advice. I’m not looking for encouraging comments. I am taking today for what it is….my own personal pity party. Welcome!  Feel free to enjoy some refreshments! There is red wine, or red wine, or maybe you’d like some red wine?! Is it okay that it’s from a box? Only the best at our house. 

I can’t say I woke up knowing that today was party day. It more or less smacked me in the face like a frozen glove not long after that though. It’s dreary outside, it’s cold, and Mother Nature is having a hard time deciding if she wants to make it snow or rain. It’s a holiday, so I should be happy that the entire family was home for at least part of the day. We went for a walk at the mall. I was trying to change the theme of the party, but after my delicious fruit smoothly got knocked out of my hand and spilled all over the floor, like the proverbial kid with the ice cream cone,  I lost all hope. 

Do I know why I am depressed today? I have some ideas. Life. It sneaks up on you, and before you know it kids are getting ready to leave home. It’s good and bad……because they CAN. We have prepared them. They grow so fast though. At times it seems like life is constantly trying to bring us down. We deal with the hand we are dealt, but sometimes it seems like the deck is stacked against us, which brings me to…. worry. I try not to spend too much time partaking in this activity, but sometimes the unknown gets to me. Sometimes, I worry about what is yet to come. 

I saw an article online this morning referring to today as “Blue Monday.” By the time I read it I had already realized that it was party day, but it did explain my feelings a little. Apparently, I’m not the only one who is down today. The holidays are over and spring  is still to far away. The weather is crappy. There are pity parties happening all over the world. As they say…..”misery loves company”…… so CHEERS to you and yours!  This, however, is one party that I won’t miss when it is over. When you leave the party, take all your belongings. There is no coming back. Tomorrow is a new day! 

Stop Lying! It Doesn’t Become You.

I can’t even express the feeling. Anger? Sadness? Confusion? Disgust? Or a combination of all of these. Yes. That’s what it is.  It stirs within me for the unbelievable number of people who are out there pretending they have never made a comment…EVER…..that could be construed as racist, sexist, blah, blah, blah. It’s a load of baloney. Every single person who is making claims right now about others, has sat in a room with a bunch of friends or family and made a comment in relation to a stereotype about another’s sex, race, or religion. Are they racist? No. Are they sexist? No. Are they human. Yes.

We have lived in China. We have a Chinese daughter. We live in a very diverse area. I have friends of many different races and religions, all over the world.  I have friends who have different sexual orientations than me. We have been friends for years. I love each and every one of them for who they are. I will stop in a store, on the street, or wherever I am and start talking to a complete stranger. No matter what they look like. As I have said before, my husband and now even the kids, say I can make a friend anywhere. I love people. I love interacting with them. I love learning about their lives. I love. With every part of my being. Have I made a joke at some point that could be considered racist. I’m sure of it. Am I racist? No. Am I human? Yes.

So for those individuals, and groups, who are out there spewing hate, under the guise of stopping “mostly fabricated” hate. Stop. Are there racists in the world? Unfortunately, yes. Are there sexists? Again, yes. Are there people we could tag with all these other hateful labels? Yes. Are there many? Probably not. Is it half of our nation? That’s crazy talk. So STOP. STOP PERPETUATING HATE. It’s ugly, and it doesn’t become you.

Live. Love. Laugh…….and Handle With Care

Sometimes we forget. We forget that life is fragile. We forget that we need to seize every opportunity we can with those we love, because those moments are fleeting and can be gone in the blink of an eye.

Occasionally God gives us a little reminder. Something unexpected and sometimes tragic. A house lost to fire, a car accident, a serious illness in the family, a life taken too soon and without the chance to say goodbye. It is easy to take those we love for granted, to forget we have a gift that can be taken from us at any moment, and that what is here today may not be here tomorrow. We often forget that our blessings must be handled with care.

It is one thing that we all have in common. No one is immune. Even those of us who have had those reminders in the past will eventually fall into periods of ignorant bliss again. It is human nature. We will fall into comfortable denial, until we are once again reminded to appreciate what we have, and who we have in our lives. We are reminded to handle with care.

So what do we do?! Do we live in fear? Do we avoid risks at all costs? No! We live life to the fullest. We step out of our comfort zone and experience the world. We make amazing memories with those we love. We take every chance we get to spend time with friends and family. We never miss a chance to say “I love you.”  Never miss a chance to make a new friend, to reach out to an old friend, or to show kindness to someone we have never called “friend” before. We choose happiness and love. We choose to appreciate the wonders of this Earth, and enjoy them with others. We choose to find something  positive in even our darkest moments. We choose to embrace life, and do our best to live a life without regrets.

If there is one thing I have taught myself in life, one thing that has brought me the most happiness,  it is reminding myself of this:  Live. Love. Laugh……….and handle with care.

 

 

 

 

A Letter to my “Otherly-Raced, Religioned, or Abled” Friends

I am not racist. If you are a good person. Kind. Caring. Thoughtful. Honest. Polite. You will always be my friend. I don’t care what color you are, or what religion you believe. You are my friend.

I could never say that I didn’t notice your color, because I did. Just like my red-headed friend, or my really tall friend. I noticed, but I will not treat you differently than any other friend. If someone asks something, where I have to point you out as an area of reference, like “it’s over there next to the tall, red-headed girl.” I will. I may refer to your color: “See that Asian girl? It’s to the right of her.” But that means nothing about how I feel about you. We all have differences. I am short, and a little over-weight. Feel free to point that out. I don’t care. It’s who I am.

I don’t care if you go to church, synagogue, or mosque. Believe what makes you the best person you can be. What gives you hope. What makes you get up every day. Don’t try to change who I am, and I won’t try to change you, but help me grow as a person. I enjoy learning from my friends, or anyone for that matter. I love other cultures, and experiencing them.

I don’t mind a good debate. Don’t get mad at me if I don’t agree though. I will do the same for you. Mutual respect for differences is important. I have lived in an area that is populated by many, many people who have political views that are not the same as mine, for most of my life. That is not a problem for me. Again, if you are a good person, believe what helps you to be your best you. What makes you happy. What makes you thrive. I will never hold your beliefs against you.

If you have a disability, please don’t be offended if I say that word. It doesn’t mean I look down upon you, or think you are any less than me. It’s just a word. My friends are full of gifts to give the world. You contribute to society in many ways. You contribute to MY life in many ways. I don’t care if you can’t walk, talk, see, hear, or anything else for that matter. It doesn’t mean anything to me, so don’t be offended. It implies nothing, except  maybe a closer parking spot.

If you are not a good person, I don’t care what color you are. Bad people come in all colors, religions, races, and abilities. If I have a friend who is not who I thought they were. If I find out that they are not the kind, thoughtful, honest, and polite person I thought they were. They won’t be among those I call friends.  I surround myself with people who I feel have a positive effect on the world, and humanity. I don’t care what color you are, or what god you believe in.

Good people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and religions. I will take all the friends I can get. They are blessing from Heaven. Be a person to be proud of, and I will call you friend.

 

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.

 

The January Vacuum

It pulls everything out of me, and I feel like a deflated balloon. I struggle to function. Hiding in a corner like that lone dust bunny, just trying to make it through the storm. Closer to March, closer to spring. January sucks. It sucks everything out of me.

In Michigan, it is a cold, wet, gray, month.  Long gone are the sounds of college football blaring from the TV, and fall breezes wafting through the open windows. The trees are bare, and the neighborhood children have moved their play inside, away from the winter chill. The holidays are over, and it is too far to the next. There are more overcast days than blue sky days, and warm weather is too many months, or too many miles away. Going out to do errands, on wet and sloppy, or slick and icy roads, is unappealing. Crawling into bed with a good book, or a movie, and a hot cup of coffee, is much more so. Then again, being cooped up brings me down too. I waffle between the safety and comfort of home, and raging cabin fever. I have often felt that there is no way to win the battle of January, at least not in my world.

For years, I let January swallow me whole, but recently I have tried to find ways to overcome the vacuum. We have bought light therapy lamps, and when we consistency turn them on while waking up, they do help. On those days I manage to drag my body out of the warm bed, early morning workouts go a long way to making me feel better, as well. Vitamins. Music. Essential oil aromatherapy. I’ll get there. I’ll find the right mix, and eventually, we’ll move to a sunnier state. For now, I continue to fight for good, for light, and hope for the renewal of life outside my window.

The People of Paris, and the World, Unite

The people of France woke up on Friday morning expecting a day like any other. They went to work, shopped for groceries, cared for children. Maybe there was a wedding, a birth, a milestone; an event that made it a little more special than the average. They could not have predicted the day would end with a vicious attack on their country. Monsters who abhor freedom, peace, Christianity, and the West as a whole, terrorizing Paris. Invaders, shaking it to its core.

We all know what happen, so I am not going to rehash it. The attackers are not worth my time, nor do they deserve attention. The people of Paris, and the compassionate world, are what this is about. People who came together in a time of need, a time of tragedy, as one big family.  Supporting France, and its citizens. Just as the world responded to the attacks of 9-11-2001, they have united.

As the events transpired in Paris, its citizens helped others in need, opening their doors to victims, offering safety and comforting one another.  Taxis turned their meters off and offered free rides home,  strangers drove stranded pedestrians home, sometimes all the way across town. Things we would not do in times of peace, change during events like this, times when the frailty of life is all too apparent. When everyone becomes a friend to another. When the world around us is, suddenly, a much smaller place.

Around the world, social media lit up with photographs, and drawings, condolences, and prayers. The lights on the Pearl Tower in Shanghai changed to the colors of the flag of France, as did Sydney’s iconic Opera House. One World Trade Center in New York lit its spire in support as well, the epitome of proof that we survived, and Paris will as well. They won’t beat us. The monsters say we are their enemys, but we are bigger and stronger, and we have united.

As tragic as times like this are, I am encouraged by the way the citizens of the world not only unite, but remember their manners, and spread a little more love. People take notice of the humanity around them. They step out of their own routines, out of their stresses or troubles, and help others. Courtesy and thoughtfulness, which often lack in peaceful times, suddenly return. People smile, and acknowledge one another when passing on the street. They hold doors for others, or wave a hand to thank the driver behind them for letting them in. They donate money or items, to help those in need. Things that still happen on a daily basis, but much less often than they used to.

As I have grown older, I have taken notice, and adjusted my behavior to make sure that I don’t disappear into the problems of my own little world. I have taught my children to be constantly vigilant of others. Always be kind, and never take it for granted. Nothing is guaranteed in this life. You never know when you are going to need the help of a stranger, and you should give as much as you would like to receive in return. If it is not returned, you have still given your all to the world around you. You’ve been the best version of you. These are the little things in life, that are really quite large. They unite us. If light can come out of the darkness of tragedy, I hope it comes in the form of human kindness and love in everyone’s everyday life.

Please pray for the people of Paris. For safety, comfort, and healing. For those who died, and their families. For the spirit and hope of a brighter future, free of monsters who seek to destroy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shipwreck on Vacation

In the early morning light, my husband and I paddle our kayaks a mere 50 yards from the rocky shore of the vacation cottage we are sharing with our Canadian friends. The water is calm, the sky is blue with fluffy white clouds. We look down into the water to view the devastation of yesteryear. It’s ironic, that in such a beautiful place, where it seems so peaceful, there have been so many disasters.

The ship we are slowing circling, with great interest, is the “Cascaden.”  It went down during a gale in the year 1871, in the Cape Hurd area of Lake Huron. It had been minutes from its destination. A lighthouse, just around the corner, whose keeper and family were in dire straits. I pray they made it to shore. They were so close.

We have been vacationing for a week in Tobormory, Ontario, Canada. It is at the very tip of the Bruce Peninsula, sandwiched between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. It is a small, coastal town that is miles and miles from any other, and it is surrounded by God’s creations. The water is clearer than I’ve seen anywhere else, and the stony beaches, whiter. The contrasts in color are amazing. Jaw-dropping  gorgeous. I am in awe.  I am overwhelmed by the beauty and peace I feel here. At night, there are a millions stars visible in the dark sky. I could look up for hours.

We have seen two other shipwrecks, but there are thousands in these waters. The photo above is from the Canadian schooner named “Sweepstakes.”  It was damaged near Cove Island in 1885 while transporting coal, and towed to Big Tub Harbour. It was not repaired in time, and sunk. The other, a two-story passenger steamer, “The City of Grand Rapids,” sits just a few yards away. It  caught fire while docked in Little Tub Harbour in 1907, and was towed out of the harbour and released. It eventually drifted into Big Tub Harbour where it sits today.

I continue to feel the conflict between the beauty above the water, and the tragedy that sits below. I feel the shipwrecks take on a beauty of their own, proving a home, or shelter,  for life below the surface, but they didn’t start like that. That is not where they’re meant to be. Or is it?

 

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.