Monday, June 14, 2010

The miracle of the plane delay and unwanted rain

You will not believe what I am about to share with you.  It is a lovely story.  Get a snack and some juice.  You will like it.

Five years ago, I went to my first international RYLA conference in Chicago.  I was asked to be interviewed on tv.  I met lots of amazing folks.  The founder of RYLA told people I was his best friend.  I marched in a parade through downtown Chicago.  I ate Chicago pizza and rode the L.  But of everything that happened that trip, the most memorable was meeting a kindred spirit of a person named Zdenek.  He is from the Czech Republic.

We instantly hit it off despite every single obvious difference we had.  No common language.  No common history.  No common occupations.  No common life story except we are Rotarians.  That was enough.

We were together again the next summer in Malmo, Sweden for another RYLA.  Happier then the summer before, because we had year of friendship behind us.

I have had him as a Bob the Builder a while ago because he thought it would be a good idea to build a $1 million dollar Boy Scout facility for the scouts.  So he did.  It is just how he rolls.
Without sounding strange or churchy, last Friday night I had Mr. Fun give me a blessing for my trip this week.  If you know what that is, good on ya.  If you don't, essentially it is a prayer given for my behalf from my husband and God. 

While it is not my nature to put intimate special things out here on the blog (I mean talking about my long nose is as about as personal as I have gotten) I feel like this is too cool to not share.

On Friday, during the blessing, it talked about special tender moments that would come my way and I would always remember them.  In my mind's eye, I could see it involved Zdenek.  Over the years, we had many conversations about Mormonism and what it all means.  He is very intelligent, and has many questions.    He has always been very interested, in a positive way.  When I was listening to the prayer/blessing, I could see us talking about the LDS church doctrine and that I was suppose to give him something.  I cried after the blessing and distinctly remember telling Mr. Fun that I know I had some special something to engage with Zdenek with.  

In my sleep that night (Friday) I dreamt that I was suppose to bring Zdenek a cd of LDS music.  Mormon Tabernacle.  Not the hymns, but the folks songs one I have.  And I was not suppose to bring him a Book of Mormon.  For a LDS person to feel they should not give someone they care about church information is a little unusual.  But I followed my heart and packed the cd and left the book at home.

I was suppose to fly out Saturday afternoon.  Bad weather in Chicago cancelled my plane until Sunday morning.  Which means that I  didn't get to go to the Cathedral in Montreal on Sunday morning as was my plan. 

So I went today because I will not meet up with my committee and any of the RYLA people until Tuesday at 12:00. 

I just lounged around all morning in my hotel room this morning, hoping the annoying rain would clear.  If it had, I would have gone to the Botanical garden instead. 

But because the plane was delayed, I couldn't go to the church yesterday.  And the rain stayed so I went to the church today instead.  I was hungry, but I felt like I should go to the 12:30 English tour of the church.

During the tour, the guide had to tell a guy in the back to stop taking pictures twice.  I thought to myself  "he must not speak English very well."

When the tour ended, she pointed at him and said "You can take your pictures now."  At the end of her pointy finger was my buddy Zdenek.

Shock is not EVEN the word for it. 

Montreal has 1.6 million people in it.   And here in some random church that is not of my faith, in some country that is not native to either of us, we were together with 17 other folks on a tour we both randomly selected.

After our initial shock, the first words he said was "I do not believe that God has accidents."  His daughter is with him for our conference and we all spent the afternoon together.

The story doesn't stop there.  After we found a cafe for lunch, the first thing he started to ask me about was the church doctrine.  Not how my family was.  Not about RYLA or Rotary.  It was about church.

The story in short is a respected business man he knows has spent some time in Utah as of late and told Zdenek some things that are not true.  He is worried about me and what I believe.  But we have five years of friendship together, and we were able to connect.

Mr. Fun has a saying "There is a God, and I am not Him."  I do not even begin to see how God could orchestrate our adventure today by delaying my plane two days ago, but He did and it worked.  It has given me and Zdenek time to talk together without all the RYLA folks everywhere.  It has given me time to think about his questions and how to best lay his concerns to rest.

There is a God.  And I am not Him. 
Thank goodness.

My Wii-al Age

The good news is that we have a Wii now so we can track our health. Rumor is Mr. Fun is too “stout”, The Boy is too heavy, and The Girl is too skinny. Nothing was commented on me so I must be just right, right?

The bad news is that my Wii age is 57.

I went from feeling good and sporty in my new hair cut for the Montreal/RYLA trip to feeling like burning all my clothes and converting to Hinduism so that I can cover my body in extra large saris—which of course then desperately increases my chances of drowning in my house, as we learned last blog post.

Mr. Fun, who hasn’t been doing yoga in the basement or watching his carb intake and even has a bigger BMI index than me didn’t Wii “age” so high. Totally unfair.

Even The Boy, who hasn’t attended a PE class in three years was less old then me, comparably speaking.

So, as I sit here in the airport, I have had to time ponder this conundrum (nice word, eh? The Girl learned it in 8th grade science class from a cool teacher—the kind of teacher that set his desk on fire to catch the kids attention).

This is what I have decided.

I wish there was a magic pill for me. Not so that I would be thin or have a perfect body. I wish there was a magic pill for me to take so that I could finally come to some sort of peace with my body and whatever it really looks like. For years, my husband (and some others) have told me that I have some sort of distorted body image problem. I have read about it. I have studied it. Yeah, I think they are right. I do not have real and clear true concept of what it looks like. It is kind of a pain, no doubt.

I think I know where and when it started.

Ted from 4th grade recess.

If you have never seen me, I have a sharp, long pointy nose. Always have, probably always will (unless of course Mr. Fun becomes a VP of the world and a major amount of discretionary money is laying around for a nose job only AFTER I have given most of it away to the poor and needy—which I read in the Bible today that that they need a voice for them so I actually might be on the right track …).

Kids had always said stuff about my nose since I started school—pretty mean most of it. The worst was “Pinocchio Popper” (my maiden name). It is true, to a little kid it does looks pinocchioish. However, by third grade or so, the novelty had worn off and we had all moved on.

Then, in the fourth grade, we were moved to the Upper Playground, as it was called. The Upper Playground was like going to Heaven from some non-descript place, although the snow burms weren’t as good, high or sturdy for snowcaving like the Lower Playground. It also had a covered bench area for when it snowed or rained. See what I mean by “heavenly?”

Ted was a grade ahead of me so we had never crossed paths before. But with the jump in playground status, he noticed me there. And made sure everyone else did.

He was ruthless. I think sometimes he searched me out on purpose just to make fun of me and my nose.

It wasn’t every day. It wasn’t all recess. It wasn’t like some sort of movie where I was covering my face and hiding behind the portables. But it was enough to consistently remind me that I was imperfect. So imperfect. This went on until he left in the 7th grade to the Jr. High a couple years later.

When we were in high school again together, he would still mention it on and off.

Do I think he had it out for me? No. Do I think he was doing it because he liked me? No. Do I think he was just a stupid insensitive boy? Yep.

The sad piece of collateral damage is that it laid out a path for my self-doubt in my perception of what I deem to be pretty.

Wait. No, not pretty. Just physically acceptable.

This is the strange irony of it all….I am on my way to Montreal for an International conference that I helped design and will help direct. I am the only female in the world on this special committee asked to serve and do this. I will hurry home to direct another leadership academy in Missouri that is used as model program for the entire world for Rotary International. I have been winning awards for various activities throughout my whole life. I was a collegiate athlete. I was an Olympic Torchbearer. I have jumped on the Great Wall of China. I have the greatest pair of green pants to travel in…even with their newly acquired “Chik-Fil-A” grease stains.

I married the nicest man I have ever known. I have some terrific children who are trying to choose the better way and do their best. I have amazing bestie friends, doing some amazing good in the world.

And what am I thinking about here in the cubby space in the Chicago airport?

Man, I feel fat.

In a way, Ted is sitting right next to me. Right here in Chicago. Perhaps Ted has been with me all these years…an uninvited guest in my subconscious, still taunting me and making me feel less than what I could consider myself to be….

I am thinking that Dr. Phil would say that experience I had as a kid was a “defining moment.”

PS/ I Facebooked Ted. He is there…fat.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bon Voyage

I am going to Montreal tomorrow.
International Rotary RYLA program. 

I have so much I want to write but no order to my thoughts.

I will tell you that I learned something about the women
of Bangladesh that I wanted to share with you.

Did you know that more women from Bangladesh
drown in seasonal floods per capita than any other place?

Strange eh?

You want to know why?

One reason is because they wear saris.
They are lots of material, which gets heavy
in water and drags the women down.

Another reason is they are not allowed
to be taught to swim.

Another reason, which is perhaps the
craziest one of all, is that they
are not allowed to leave their homes
without male chaperones.
So, if their house is flooding and
no male is in the home to escort them
out, then they are not allowed to leave.

They have to stay in their home,
with water pouring in around them,
and they drown.
Assumingly, them and their children.

I have thought a lot about those
drowning Bangladeshian women over the
last few months.

What does this have to do with Montreal?

I guess as I decide how I am going to get from the
airport Saturday night to my hotel in
a foreign country without any chaperone,
I am glad I am not Bangladeshian.

Have a great week.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Friar Val

Everybody loves a Friar.  :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Have a great week...

Adam Ondi Ahman

Far West

Friday, June 4, 2010

Happiness Found (who knew a machine could do that?)

When I was at the UN, they talked about a theory that has been around for a while.  While most countries deal in the "Gross National Product" theory as a gauge as to how they are doing as a country, there is another factor that is now moving into valid consideration:  Gross National Happiness.   And I quote from the National Bureau of Economic Research:

The Happiness of Nations

"As economies get richer, they can afford to question the need for further riches. In a country where people are starving, economic growth remains regarded as a vital objective to overcome hunger and other poverty problems."

Traditionally, economists and others measure a nation's progress and prosperity by looking at Gross Domestic Product (GDP), that is, the total output of good and services a country produces for its own inhabitants or for sale to other nations. There is a growing tendency, however, for economists to consider another measure, Gross National Happiness.

"For the wealthy countries of the world, though not the developing countries, our instinct is that it would be a mistake in the twenty-first century to focus excessively on ways to raise the level or growth rate of GDP," write David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald in Happiness and the Human Development Index: The Paradox of Australia (NBER Working Paper No.11416). "The industrialized countries should … use a broader conception of well-being than the height of a pile of dollars." As economies get richer, they can afford to question the need for further riches. In a country where people are starving, economic growth remains regarded as a vital objective to overcome hunger and other poverty problems.

One of the best-known attempts to move away from a simple reliance on GDP as a measure of welfare is the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations. Published every year, the HDI is a score that amalgamates three indicators: lifespan, educational attainment, and adjusted real income.

I have been thinking about this concept since I heard about it discussed in New York and actually been noticing there is a lot of talk about folks living more "happy."  Happiness projects they are called.  Isn't a project designed to be temporary?  I don't like that part of the idea.  Projects are conscious though and that idea I like.

I am wired to be pretty happy.  I have never suffered from depression.  I remember once when I was the PTA president, a cowardly anonymous woman wrote me a mean email. It impacted me so that I didn't want to go up to do my work at the school, but that feeling only lasted a few days.  Sure, there are folks that I do not enjoy being around, or find that they can say or be unfriendly to me, but all in all, I am happy.

I am impacted by daily events (like the rude man in the thrift store the other day) but I complain about it and I am good to go.  "Movin' on" as the Hot Rod Rock Star of the North has always said.  I am not that good at movin' on until I vent to a buddy or two.  I am a venter, no doubt.

Simple things have ALWAYS made me happy.  I come back to them over and over.  A great pen.  Sunshiney mornings. Photography.  Alaska-- just the mear utter of its name makes my eyes smile.  A nice cookie.  Friends, friends, friends.  My family's sense of humor.  Mail.  When an event goes well.  Stamps.  Clearance sale.  Good sleep.  Frosting.  When Mr. Fun lets his hair down. 

And I have always known them.  I know what makes me happy.

My boy, when he is well, is wired like me.  I like that.  That makes me happy.  As a side note, he is getting better and better.  That makes me really happy.

I think that is why I do volunteer work.  I feel like it brings purpose to my life, and oft times, you get to see the fruits of your labor in front of you.  Happy.

Bob the Builder sent this to me and it made me smile.  I don't care about Coke.  I was just asked yesterday the last time I had a can of soda.  It was 12 years ago.  A sip every year or so, and I good to go.  Too carbonatey--that doens't make my GI track happy.  And I know it.  Why do something unnecessary that doesn't make me happy?

Enjoy this.  And have a happy day. (side note:  Notice how the students got happier as they got more stuff to give away...)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wanna take a field trip? Let's crash a wedding at Loose Park...

Our church members were encouraged to actually think about Veterans on Memorial Day this year (I know...stop the crazy talk Vals!) and listed some spots in the city to visit related to war.  Missouri does have a history with the Civil War since it was the Compromise state.  We googled parks in the city and we found a delightful 75 acre spot called Loose Park.  I had heard of it, and actually been there for a Rotary function years ago, but have never field tripped there.  Come will love it.
The Boy is doing much better.
Thanks everyone for the prayers.  It is helping.  :)

It was the site of a Civil War battle which 29,000 folks participated.  The South lost.  Not much more to say.  Sorry South.
Little did we know on our walk-about with the Allison family that we would be uninvited guests at a wedding in the Rose Garden.  It was like a movie.  The venue was delicious...5,000 blooms they say.  There was Vivaldi and Bach music on stringed instruments.  It was surreal.  (How does Val know what they were playing?  Funny, after a wedding, we found a program on the ground so we know everyone's names)

The Girl, Tom's girl and I refused to move until we saw the bride walk down the aisle.
Meet Whitney and her father, Don
Matt said that there were 30 non-invited guests (women)
who were watching from the higher ground.  Not a single
man stopped to enjoy the show.

Not that the men didn't stop to enjoy something...
but it wasn't the wedding.  It was their electronic "girlfriends"
(palm pilots or whatever they are called)

Whitney and Brian exchanging vows...
it seemed very strange to see sweaty joggers, people playing Frisbee,
and us to witness this very intimate moment.
And now, reading this, it seems strange that I know their names,
their families, who the best friend in the wedding was, their
musical choices, scriptures, etc....
I am feeling sort of like a stalker....

Allisons love to climb trees

Reminded me of China
It was a pictures of feet day.
Their reflections

My favorite rose name...
Free Spirit

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day

Happy belated Memorial Day.