Chinese Restaraunt Banter

We want to communicate with our Little Panda once she makes the trek from China to Kentucky, but China has many dialects so learning Mandarin is a crapshoot since your child may come from places where Cantonese or other languages are used.

What to do?

After consulting the almighty I-net, we learned that locals in Hubei mainly use Mandarin dialects so we’re taking the plunge and learning some basic Mandarin.  I’ve never been great at languages. In three years of Spanish I learned how to sing De Colores and cuss like a Tolucan bar tender.  However, desire is a powerful thing.  Armed with the promise of communicating with Little P. I decided to amp up my effort.

My first step was going to the library and checking out a ton of stuff on Mandarin.  My first choice?  Mandarin for Dummies of course. But as soon as I hit play on my car CD changer, I knew something was off…

“Our hero is taking a trip to China.  First he must find his luggage…”

What followed was oceans of Mandarin phrases, pertaining to everything from airports to magazine purchases.  There was no repetitions…no simple words…just Mandarin barrages followed by quick translations to English. What the heck am I going to do with that?  Unless I’m hyperthymesic…nothing.

https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/professional/savant-syndrome/resources/articles/hyperthymestic-syndrome-extraordinary-memory-for-daily-life-events/

I reached back into my mountain of resources and found Chinese Mandarin (the short course) by Pimsleur.  It’s seven levels of basic Mandarin packed into one tiny box.

20141016_081316Since I drive a lot, I’ve already blown through four levels of this course and learned a few phrases.  I say learn, but in reality I’ve only been exposed to Mandarinsorta like taking a multivitamin and waiting for your health to change. We’re talking simple language here…stuff like:

Do you speak english?

I speak a little mandarin

I don’t speak well

Hello

Goodbye

How are You?

Like I said…basic.  But Mandarin is trickier than I thought it would be (which is scary).   For starters, the pronunciation is wacked. If you’ve ever tried reading Mandarin, you’ll see what I mean.

Here’s a few examples from:

http://pages.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/chin/pinyin1.html#intro

q = English ch

r = something between American r and French j

x = English sh

z = English ds (as in “fads”)

zh = English j

Pinyin makes things a lot easier, because it spells words out phonetically…

http://www.ctcfl.ox.ac.uk/pinyin_notes.htm

…but there’s another little wrinkle called intonation.  In Mandarin, saying the same word with unique tones leads to totally different meanings. One famous example of this is that “ma” in different Mandarin tones means, “Did mother scold the horse?”

ma ma ma ma?
(mā mà mă ma?)

http://www.chinese-outpost.com/language/pronunciation/tones-of-mandarin-chinese.asp

Okay, so it’s looking grim right? Learning basic Mandarin is tough…and that’s why I decided to lean on technology.  Enter the app Talk Translate.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=soo.trans.tour&hl=en

As blokes like to say, “It’s brilliant!”  You speak into your phone and this FREE app translates your English words into Mandarin.  Pretty sweet if you ask me. The only trouble is, Talk Translate doesn’t translate phrases into pinyin, so you must imitate the speaker exactly…which could lead to your mom yelling at a farm animal.

Armed with my phone and recent learnings, I felt it was time to try this Mandarin stuff out, so I checked my pride at the door and entered the Firebowl Grill (sorry no website available).  This Chinese buffet, in Florence, Kentucky has been one of my favorite restaurants for a while because it combines two things that I love…unlimited portions and Chinese food. I’ve frequented the Grill (as I call it) for years and know most of the staff, so I figured it would be a great launching pad for Mandarin learning….I was wrong.

For starters, the regular cashier was MIA.  In her place was a manager who greeted me with,  “How are you?  Just one for tonight?”

The guy spoke better English than I did, so replying in Mandarin just felt wrong. (Strike One!)

Next, I waited for a waitress to escort me to my table.  When I saw her walking towards me, my heart jumped.

I know her and she doesn’t speak English!  This is my chance!  

She turned quickly and headed towards the dining hall.  I had to wait for my opportunity.  You don’t just blurt out “hello!” to a fleeing waitress. By the time we reached my table I was practically having a conniption.

“Xièxie!” I croaked.

"Bié kèqì," she replied with a smile.

I never thought to look up "your welcome" in Mandarin, so her comment threw off my game. 
I just smiled and nodded likea prize idiot while she walked away. (Strike Two!)
Things didn't get better during our second exchange, when I decided to let Google translate do the talking.

https://translate.google.com/

I typed in “I’m traveling to China,”  and kept a pic of Panda ready on my phone.  When my waitress returned, I mumbled a half-hearted “xièxie” and thrust my phone into her face. I hit the button for translate, but the voice on my phone was too low.

“What she say?” the waitress asked.

I hit the button again, but my Samsung Galaxy 5 wasn’t cooperating, so I changed tactics and showed her the Chinese characters for “I’m traveling to China.”

“No read, too small.”

Damn

I fumbled with the phone and managed to get Panda’s pic on the screen.  My friend’s eyes lit up as she began speaking in Mandarin.  I won’t pretend to know what she said…but she seemed excited.

I was able to spit our, “nǚ’ér” which means “daughter” in Mandarin but the waitress looked puzzled.  She pointed at the picture and then to me with an “ahhhhhhhh.”  Her smile was so sweet that I almost cried.

“You go alone?” she asked.

“Wife,” I managed.

“Ahhhhhhh,” she said again and clapped.

I tried spitting out Hubei but she was off again, busing tables, leaving me with a warm heart.  I never imagined communication would be that hard!

Across the room sat an older white couple with two Chinese teenagers.  It was the first time I noticed such a scene at the Firebowl. One of the teens peered at me sheepishly and I thought how awesome it would be to bring Panda here.

Someday that will be our family.

In the end, I was eager to practice “sai jen” or “goodbye.”  This was my last chance and I wanted to do it right so after polishing off three plates of fried rice, I decided to stalk my waitress.  I waited patiently and followed her out to the front door, repeating “sai jen,” “sai jen,” over and over until we both reached the entrance.  But before I could say a word, she turned to me and said, “Thanks for coming, have a great weekend!”

(Strike Three!  I was out!)

 

Trust

If you read my last post, you know that Reece and I had an appointment with Dr. Mary Staat at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital International Adoption Center.

http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/service/i/adoption/default/

Even though we felt great about Olivia’s information (including the pictures and videos), Theresa and I felt having a doc look over her medical chart was a good idea. We already knew we had a special little girl, but it was nice to have some reinforcement from a professional who deals with international adoptions everyday.

“A wonderful referral,” Staat said via conference call.  “She looks like a child who’s been well cared for.”

Staat explained how challenging cases are the norm, therefore Olivia’s medical status was encouraging. There were only a few things that concerned her.  One was Olivia’s measurements (height, weight, head circumference) which had remained the same since she was two years old.

“It looks as though someone just transferred the old measures over without updating them,” Dr. Staat said. “And her chart said she was quiet and shy but I didn’t get that impression from the videos.”

She was right.  Although the videos were only a few seconds long, they showed Little Panda smiling, sliding, climbing….nothing that would seem timid.  But we were only provided a glimpse into her world, so who knows? Sooner or later the true Panda will reveal herself. Right now we’re just putting pieces of her puzzle together the best we can.

Our meeting with Dr. Staat was awesome. She has adopted three children internationally and can relate to our many concerns. One such concern is the transition. In a perfect world, Reece or I would stay home with Olivia until we felt she was acclimated to her new life in America, but with our financial situation, that’ s not possible. When I brought this up to Staat, she put my mind at ease.

“You won’t do everything right….you’ll make mistakes.  With our first child I wasn’t able to stay at home…so she was in daycare. It was tough but we got through it.  You just do the best you can.”

It reminded me of our friend Martha’s response.  “Your daughter will show you what she needs and you will provide that for her.  Your love will be enough.”

Each child is unique and although we will provide and nurture Little P as much as possible, this isn’t going to be “canned” parenting where we do everything by the expert’s book. There will be mistakes (hopefully not many) but God has entrusted us with this little life.

Trust

My family went zip lining the other day. It was $6 a pop through American Heritage Girls http://www.ahgonline.org/ so my wife signed us all up.  I really didn’t think much about it until we arrived and I saw how high the line was.

You gotta be freakin kidding me.

As I watched men, women and children of all ages swinging like monkeys in a diaper (as my son called it) I felt a twinge of nerves.  But that was nothing compared to watching my five-year old son standing high atop the wooden platform.

What am I doing?  He’s only five!  Why am I letting him do this?

Just seeing my boy suspended up in the air was enough to make me break out in cold sweats, but if Mitch was nervous, he didn’t show it.

5 years old and not afraid?

I’ll admit…I was afraid.  In fact when it was my turn, the guy running the show tried his best to calm me down by explaining how safe it all was, but I wasn’t hearing him.

Reece said later, that ziplining was a lot like the adoption. You’re standing high above with nothing but a small piece of metal between you and death, yet the hardest part is the first step cause you’ve never done this sort of thing and your body is not used to jumping off a ledge. You just have to trust that everything will be fine.

Trust

“Just go ahead and run,” the guy in charge said to me, but my body was cold and shaking.

“Can I hold onto this line?” I asked, tugging on a makeshift handle I had fashioned out of straps hanging from my adult diaper.

“Nawww, that cord is gonna be five feet above you.”

“Then what do I hold onto?”

“You could hold this,” he said motioning towards a cord fastened to my harness.  My hands were sweating so I knew if things went south, my hands would slip right out of the darn line. I looked down again at the crowd of kids.  I was one of the last ones so if I crapped out now, I would look like a ninny.

“Just run,” the man repeated.

I ran…sort of.  It was more a lunge, really…a mad lunge where I let go and braced myself for whatever was to come.

“It was an act of faith.  Just letting go and trusting…not having anything to hold onto but still believing it was going to be okay,” Reece said.

That’s what this whole journey with little P has been about….Trust…

…and I’m still learning how.

Meet Little Panda

I could say that I didn’t see this coming, but that would be a lie.  There are no words to describe my feelings as I write this.

Last week, my lovely wife Theresa was getting antsy.  As I relayed in my last post, CCAI (our adoption agency) said the typical wait for a child meeting our medical needs was seven months. Over half a year before we could be matched and meet our daughter. Just words to me, really—but Theresa felt differently.

“I want to make sure I’m doing everything in my power to find our little girl,” she told me.

I agreed to a point.  “Everything in my power” can mean a lot of things.  The way I saw it, we were doing everything and now was time to let go and let God.

Reece felt otherwise.  Her heart was determined to keep searching…which is where this story takes a cool turn. While looking on Facebook, Reece ran across an interesting post. Seems some lady had found an agency in need of adopting parents.

What?  That didn’t make sense.  From the beginning, we were told that every agency had a long waiting list. yet here was someone claiming to have found the proverbial needle in a haystack. When Reece relayed her findings, I was skeptical.  My thinking was, “CCAI is a great organization, why not be content and allow God to take care of it?”  I wanted to support my wife, yet I felt this other agency business was a wild goose chase.  (Could I come up with any more cliches?)

That evening, we went to a Harvest Moon Festival and had a great time.  Just seeing all of those Chinese children made my heart swell and intensified the yearning for Little Panda. Even though I didn’t want to admit it, my heart was softening to the idea of leaving CCAI.  Then on our drive home, something happened.  While turning into our subdivision, I spied a glowing object hovering over our car.  It was a Chinese lantern…actually three Chinese lanterns.  For the next several minutes, our family marveled at these beautiful lanterns floating across the night sky in silent unison.

“It’s a sign,” Reece said.  “Three lanterns for our three little dumplings.”

I had to admit, the odds of such a display were slim.  It was Moon Cake day, but to see lanterns at 10:30 pm as we arrived home?

“I feel like I should keep searching for her.”  Reece said.  “What should I do?” There was urgency in her tone.

I looked at those glowing lanterns and shook my head in amazement. I thought standing still was what God wanted, but who knows the mind of God?  We asked for a sign, for direction in this uncertain time and here was a clear sign from our maker.

“Go for it.  Do whatever you have to do to find our little girl.”

Reece contacted the Facebook lady and learned about Madison Adoption Agency (MAA). http://www.madisonadoption.com/

Monday, September 8, 2014 at 10 am, one year to the day when Reece and I decided to begin our journey into adoption, Reece called Madison agency to inquire about any children on the waiting list.

“We have this one little sweetie pie we’ve been trying hard to get matched,” the lady from MAA said.  “She’s four years old and if we don’t match her soon, we’ll have to give her file back to China…”

Reece accepted the file and called me immediately. I knew something was up when she blurted out, “When can you get home?”

How can this be possible?

But it was possible and by 5 pm, Reece and I were pouring over an adoption file of some 4 year old darling from the Hubei province of China.  The report contained 3 short videos, 8 pictures and a basic medical/developmental checklist.  Not much, but a lot could be inferred from the information. For starters, this was one adorable little gal. But there was more. The videos revealed a typically developing kiddo, climbing up slides, smiling and reacting to her caregivers voice.

Beautiful to behold!

To make sure we hadn’t missed anything, we made an appointment with Dr. Staat at Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Adoption clinic to have a look at the file.  A conference call with the doctor was set for that Thursday at 4:30 pm.

http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/service/i/adoption/default/

Both Reece and I were pretty anxious about the whole situation. You read blogs, talk to people and think you have it all figured out….so when you’re instantly matched with a child, it throws you for a looptdy loop. That old adage “if things seem too good to be true…they probably are,” ran through my head for three days like an ominous skipping record. Finally, Thursday rolled around and it was time to find out what the good doc thought of our Chinese dumpling.

5 minutes before our appointment, Theresa’s cell phone rang. Not just any ring.  My wife had specifically set up a special ring tone for CCAI in the event they called her with a match. At 4:25 pm Thursday, CCAI was calling her phone.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Reece thought as the phone continued to ring.  This was the call she had been waiting for. The call that 11 months of prayers, tears and paperwork had brought her.

“I just wanted to call to let you know that we have a file of a girl you might be interested in.  Would you like to look at her file?”

It was funny. For months we prayed for a match, now suddenly we had TWO!

But did we really?

Instead of throwing us off, this crazy coincidence reinforced what we already knew. Theresa and I decided not to look into the matched file from CCAI, knowing that this little one was destined for another family and that our Little Panda had already been found.

Funny how God works.

Something Special in the Mix

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been writing much about our adoption and there’s a good reason for that.

There’s not much going on.

While the wait is difficult, I’ve had a relatively easy time with it. My lack of attentiveness is a gift in situations like this. It also makes for an interesting life since I can talk with you for twenty minutes then walk away without a clue as to the conversation. Such a brain makes this wait for Little P. easier since most of the time….I live in the clouds and don’t think about it.

My wife is not so lucky. She has a brain that sees everything in HD so this business about “forgetting” our adoption has been a struggle for her. In fact, Reece called our agency (CCAI if you don’t already know) this week to re-inquire about the wait.  When we first submitted our medical checklist, the time period from submission to match was about 12-18 months.  Currently, we’re at 11 months so you’d think we’d be pretty close to being matched.  Not necessarily.  When asked about the wait, Reece was told the Chinese adoption process is becoming as slow as major league baseball, therefore 18 months is the most likely scenario.

That’s quite a blow.

Instead of being on the cusp, we’re staring at 7 more months until being matched. Reece likened this to an expectant mother being told her baby wouldn’t arrive for another 7 months.  Maddening to say the least.  The upside is that our letter of acceptance (from China) goes by our log in date, so we shouldn’t have to wait long once we’re matched. Lookin at the bright side. :)smileys_by_musty14-d3hfwjw.jpg (675×647)

Although the wait continues, we’ve done a few things to remain plugged in.  For example, last weekend we visited a China exhibit at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.

http://www.childrensmuseum.org/exhibits/terra-cotta-warriors

It was a cool way to introduce Chinese culture to our kiddos.  It’s one thing to talk about China and read books, but quite another to look at Terra Cotta warriors thousands of years old.  Another part of the exhibit was set up with various examples/experiences of Chinese culture. This was great because you boarded a fake plane which streaked to China in about 5 minutes.  Don’t I wish the actual 13 hour plane ride was that freakin easy!

We’ve also been involved with other China adoption groups.  Just last weekend we attended a Harvest Moon Festival celebration.  (Hey free meat and moon cakes—I’m there!) It was awesome talking with families who had gone the distance and seeing Ellie and Mitch playing amidst mobs of Chinese kids made my heart sing.  I was a little confused on the moon cake thing though.  I guess what I envisioned was more of a moon pie…the gooey marshmallowy thing my friend Rick Powers used to scarf down every lunch period in high school.

4665597302_57b546c85a_b.jpg (1024×577)

But moon cakes are different.  Honestly, most Chinese deserts are god-awful (at least the ones I’ve tried) so I proceeded with trepidation, nibbling at the cake, hoping my lips hit Godiva chocolate rather than sugary bean paste. Imagine sinking your teeth into a bland fig newton and you get the gist of a moon cake.  Not terrible…just bland. It’s a helluva lot prettier than a moon pie though…which is nice.

Mooncake.jpg (1200×949)

Even though we’re still waiting, I feel something on the horizon.  Why?  Because my mom, wife, daughter, mother-in-law and I have all dreamed about Little Panda in one form or another.  Mine was a lucid dream that occurred the other night.  For those who don’t know, lucid dreams are when the dreamer is aware they are dreaming.  I used to have lucid dreams often, but it’s been over two years since my last one.

http://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/what-is-lucid-dreaming.html

In my dream, I followed the screams of a little girl up the front steps of our home.  When I reached the second floor hallway, I found a distinguished blonde lady standing outside Little P’s room.  She looked like a wary librarian…arms crossed, staring at me with a serious yet peaceful smile.  I passed her without a word, racing into Panda’s room. A large white bed stood before me. There, laying face down, was a little girl with long black hair.  I wish I could say I went to the girl…checked to see if she was okay… but I was so freaked out that I jumped through Panda’s mirror and woke up.

Who knows what this dream meant.  I mean why would a librarian be part of the mix?  But the fact is, I feel as though something is about to happen.

Something special.

Inspiration from Fear

Am I avoiding my fears?  God seems to think so, because everything I’ve been seeing lately involves this idea that fear must be overcome to achieve greatness.

Exhibit A: Crossroads church posts their weekly sermons online.  The other night, Reece thought it would be neat to go back and listen to the message that inspired our adoption.  It’s amazing how malleable memories are!  I thought the talk was about fulfillment or what inspires you. Needless to say, I was wrong.  Here’s the sermon. If you watch it till the end, you’ll hear the speaker pray for couples considering adopting.  I truly believe this prayer was meant for us.

http://www.crossroads.net/my/media/playVideo.php&idMedia=2225

 

Exhibit B: I’m stuck on these Ted Talks.  Usually I just go to YouTube and click on one of them that sounds interesting.  This one took me by surprise although, judging by the title, it shouldn’t have:

 

There’s more examples but you get the idea….I believe God is showing me how fear has become an obstacle in my life. So what do I fear? Here’s my quick non-exhaustive list:

1) Snakes: my father had the bright idea of putting a dead snake in a jar of formaldehyde and presented it to his 6-year-old son as a gift .  Thanks Dad!

2) Sickness and debility or becoming dependent on others: I see how fragile people are and it scares me.

3) Vampires: my sister caused this one–telling me that Dracula would suck my blood if I fell asleep.  I still sleep with my covers pulled up tightly over my neck.

4) Not providing or supporting my family: I think a lot of men struggle with this one.

5) Squiggly play doh: actually, I’m more disgusted by this than scared…I think.

6) Looking stupid or being unprepared: don’t we all fear this?

7) Failing to reach my potential

8) Heights: which sucks when you have a limb on your roof or a swing that needs hanging.

9) Losing a loved one

10) Michael Meyers:  not the comedian the masked maniac

 

I tried finding recent gallop poles about fear but only found this one from 2001:

 

Good to know that I’m not alone in fearing heights and snakes…damn snakes!  Just thinking of those slithery guys makes me squirm.

As I looked through my list, I found a few red flags.  Other than my constant disgust of squiggly play doh…my main “current” fears are:

not providing enough for my family and looking stupid.

How many guys can relate to this?  Even though we’re becoming a two income society where husbands and wives share duties, men continue to be the main providers in the majority of homes. But I think the reason for this is more than sociological.

My wife and I have discussed our purpose in life several times.  For Reece, being a mother and nurturing a loving family is everything. I can’t think of a better purpose than that and if I wasn’t being completely honest here, I would agree.  But my purpose is different and I think a lot of guys can relate.  This is a work in progress and the reason for this blog is to hammer it out, but currently my purpose is to become a force of inspiration for others and use my gifts to their fullest potential.

I know…I look at those words and say to myself, “what the hell does that even mean?”

You could say my purpose is self actualized through parenthood and you’re right, but there’s more.  Whether this is right or wrong is anyone’s opinion, but I think a lot of men can relate to this next statement.  It’s as though we have this drive to succeed and achieve greatness…something bigger than ourselves.  Parenting a child has the potential to effect numerous lives and is something great….but I’m talking more about personal achievement here.  I wish I could say that my sole goal in life is to be an awesome father, husband, son and while this is in my vision, my spirit yearns to achieve something that expands out to as many people as possible.

How is God pushing me in this direction?

It’s just an urge right?  Maybe it’s not God.  Maybe it’s a form of discontent that all 40-year-old men go through.  That’s a valid point, but as I look at my life, I see moments where I have listened to this voice and followed it.  The latest example is our adoption. The emotion and power that God “pushed down and pressed through” both my wife and I was astounding, but I can’t expect every decision to be that clear.  I can’t expect God to make everything that easy.  I believe the adoption was a nonnegotiable–something I agreed to before I came into this world, therefore the decision was set…lock, stock and barrel.  This present situation is different.

Where are my fears pushing me?  To be a better husband, father, worker, brother, son….to be a better person…

 

h07-cross_sunset-10.jpg (2640×2040)

 

….and it’s terrifying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bastet

If you read this blog then you know I was a funeral director for five years. I followed my dad into the “family” business right out of college.  I was lost and didn’t know what to do with my life so my parents provided me with a steady job while I worked out the details.  I mention this because  I am in the depths of grief over something that I never thought would be a big deal.

Psycho Puss B

On Monday, I had my precious cat (Bastet) put to sleep. She was a wonderful companion for nearly 18 years of my life.

Her death rocked me to the core.

I always joked that Bastet had lived with me longer than anyone (even my wife).  For some reason this sweet tortoiseshell persian  picked me as her “person.” In fact the night we first got her, the little rascal (no bigger than a rolled up sock) lay on my chest and promptly bit my nipple!  I was her “go to” her “god,” her everything….

Which is what made Monday so damn hard.

As an OT I see loss daily. Usually I encounter a patient’s loss of freedom, independence, function…but recently, I came across something which took me back…

It occurred during an evaluation.  I was in a hurry and only had a chance to glance at this patient’s medical history which showed:

Fx (fractured) humerus resulting from MVA (motor vehicle accident)

A broken arm?  Good!  I love working with shoulder patients. (This is how we therapists think–strange I know)

When I arrived at the address, I stumbled into a spacious apartment, where beautiful antique clocks and tables filled every crevice.  A reserved, frail woman, silently beckoned me with a wave of her hand. I sensed her unease so I began with some small talk.

“Looks like someone likes antiques…”

“Yes, my husband was fond of clocks.”

“He had great taste.”

Pressed for time, I jammed through the evaluation, hitting all of the major areas of concern (safety, doctor’s orders, pain management…the works). I was wrapping up and feeling pretty good about myself when I asked,

“How long have you lived here?”

“Oh, we were planning to move here for quite some time…starting a new chapter of sorts, but my husband was killed in the accident…”

My heart dropped to my stomach as she began to cry.

I felt her grief…thick….gnawing, numbness that sucked the air out of that beautiful room.  It hit me in the chest and my eyes began to water.

I’ve said this before…and I’ll say it again…my job is to support the client NOT crumble with them. My goal (just as it was in the funeral business) is to provide strong guidance that encourages healing.  Well, as I started to lose myself in this lady’s grief, I tossed all of that “heady” stuff aside and hugged her.  I won’t lie…it was awkward.  I didn’t even know this lady and yet we cried together…but I truly couldn’t help it and my client didn’t seem to mind.

This woman experienced grief–real grief. So why does a cat’s (Bastet’s) death upset me so much?

Initially, I though it was because I had a hand in her death.  I was the one who authorized our vet to euthanize her.  I still think this was the main reason for my distress, but there’s more to it.  Bastet’s death was my loss on several levels.  In fact both Reece and I could feel an emptiness following her death.  It was as though part of our family was cut away leaving a void in its place.  But more than that, I think Bastet’s death reminded me how fragile life is.  In a matter of 24 hours, a pet whom I loved, cared for and nurtured nearly half my life was gone forever. The comparisons began to flood my brain and I began to see (in a small, small –fraction of a way) how devastating death and loss can be.

Ekart Tollie puts it this way:

“As people around you pass away, you become increasingly aware of your own mortality…Many people still, in our civilization, deny death. They don’t want to think about it, don’t want to give it any attention.”

My first real experience with this was when my grandma died.  Mom and dad had left me in charge of the funeral home, therefore I was forced to make heart crushing decisions.

Should I pick grandma up and bring her to our funeral home?

Should I call dad right away? How am I going to tell him?

Who else should I call?

What arrangements should I make? 

My brain drowned in emotions blocking any semblance of rationality. When you work as a funeral director, you learn to block out the grief. For some silly reason, I thought this same ability (to numb the pain) would carry into my personal life. I was sorely mistaken.

So there I was, sitting at the vet with Bastet in my arms…hoping a definite sign would reveal itself.  In my heart I knew it was over, but I held hope that something would happen…a test, treatment…anything to give me a clear course of action.  But nothing happened.  If anything, the waters became more muddy as our vet rifled through scenario after scenario.

“She’s very dehydrated so we can administer IV fluids to make her feel better….or you could leave her here overnight while we run more tests…we don’t know if anything will make her feel better but if you’re looking for options….”

I didn’t want options.  I wanted clear-cut answers.  I wanted someone to tell me what to do. Here was my sweet Bastet, looking into my eyes then burying her head into my chest…with one decision holding her life in balance.

My wife says, being an adult sucks sometimes because you have to make THE decision.  The decision as I saw it was that Bastet was not going to get better.  Her condition was chronic and after some IV fluids, we would be right back where we were.  It was time.

It was time.

In the end, I sat alone with Bastet, in some back room, waiting for the doc to return for her final shot.  It was the hardest part because she kept trying to fight and get back into her cat carrier.  She wanted to go home…but she never would return home and it crushed me.  When the doc finally arrived, I wrapped her in a blanket and she calmed down.  As I cradled her, I looked into her wide eyes and told her how sorry I was…how wonderful she had been…how I wished I could hold her forever…how I wished I could see her through this.

Bastet was just a cat, but she was so much more than that.  I’ve heard the belief that attachment (to anything) is wrong because it causes pain. Attachment does indeed cause pain, but the pain I experience over Bastet’s death is well worth all of the love, joy and tenderness she gave me in her short life. I love you my Bastet…and I can’t wait to meet you again at the Rainbow Bridge.

Cat and El B

 

 

 

Not Living Like Joaquin

The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” 

Mark 9:24

 I like to talk to myself.  It’s a strangely addictive habit, but easily hidden unless you’re outside your car. My most recent one-way-conversation went something like this…

Q: How do you achieve fulfillment in life?

A: By trusting God and giving Him control.

Q: How do you give God control?

A: Through Faith.

Q: Do you live your life through faith?

A: Sometimes. There have been times when I have “LET GO AND LET GOD.” Remember when I left Thomas More (TMC) to play baseball at Ball State (BSU)? I took a chance telling myself, “you’ll never know how far you can go unless you take this opportunity.” Or what about when I decided to leave the funeral home and become an occupational therapist because I knew that continuing down that path (in the family business) would end in resentment?

cemy.jpg (768×556)

I pitched from 1993-94 at TMC with good success, so when the opportunity came to play at a higher level I transferred to BSU. I ended up pitching less than 30 innings in 2 seasons for the BSU Cardinals. 

Following college, I worked as a funeral director in the family business before accepting a remedial job at Children’s Hospital, becoming the oldest rehab tech on record.  I worked 3+ years at Children’s on my way to earning a master’s degree in OT.

Q: Do you regret these decisions?

A: Not at all because they both lead to growth.  I wouldn’t be the same person without those experiences.

Q: How is that living in faith?

A: It’s believing in your decision and not getting grid-locked over all the variables.  It’s what a friend of mine calls a Bold Move.

https://www.facebook.com/allan.milham?fref=ts&ref=br_tf

Q: Oh yeah, Allan.  Nice guy.  Anyway, you said that you “sometimes” live through faith.  What do you mean by that?

A: Wait that old lady in the hoopty is staring….okay she thinks I’m singing.  “Sometimes” means that there have been times in my life when I didn’t make that leap….where I allowed my fears to control me.

A: For instance?

Q: For instance…right now….I’m waiting for the perfect job opportunity to come around instead of stepping out of my comfort zone.

Q: But fear is good right?  I mean if you took everything by faith, you’d end up standing at the bottom of an exit ramp, holding a cardboard sign and wearing a wife beater.

A: Is there a question in there?

Q: Ummm….fear can be good so isn’t it better to be safe than reckless?

A: Sure, but I’m not talking about pulling a Joaquin Phoenix here…I’m talking about how fear limits my full potential. If I allowed fear (instead of faith) to rule my life, I’d be living alone in the basement of a funeral home, blaming others for my frustrating life. If I never surrendered to God, then Little Panda would be a cute name instead of my future daughter. You see what I’m saying?

Q: Yeah, but you’d better calm down.  You forgot to roll up the windows and you’re beginning to shout.

A: Can I turn on the radio or do you have more questions?

Q: I have one more question.

A: Shoot.

Q: Who’s Joaquin Phoenix?

joaquin-phoenix-2.jpg (794×1024)

 

 

 

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